One man’s opinion: if I had to choose the hardest gig in show business or performance, without a doubt I would say “comedian.” It is hard to spin a funny story. It is hard to tell a joke. It is hard to deadpan and hard to double-take and hard to raise an eyebrow just the right way. My own tragic lack of funniness no doubt enters into my calculations, so I won’t dispute if you list the insane qualifications for opera or the grueling years-long preparations for Chinese acrobatics. But given a choice, I’d let a couple of guys use me as a jump-rope before I’d attempt three minutes of standup.
You might think, “University press: an institution as funny as a martini made of paste.” And in many cases you would be correct. But you’re at the University of Illinois Press blog, and UIP has long produced comedy by the tome-ful. Journey below the fold to discover humorosity of the rib-wreckingest, gut-bustingest kind, all in English, and all there for you at a mere click.
The Truth Never Stands in the Way of a Good Story, by Jan Harold Brunvand
From lurid stories of roasted children to the ongoing mystery behind the origin of red velvet cake, humans continue to spread hearsay whoppers by word-of-mouth and HIT FORWARD buttons. Jan Harold Brunvand, acclaimed author of The Baby Train, delves into twelve persistent and ever-evolving urban legends, tracing their histories, variations, sources, and meanings. Fearing no medium, Brunvand points out the common elements of these tales, pins down the qualities that give urban legends their air of authenticity, and make the legends hard to believe yet impossible to dismiss. For those interested in popular culture as well as those wary of being taken in by false information, Brunvand reinforces an important piece of advice in the social media: “Don’t believe everything you hear.”
Country Music Humorists and Comedians, by Loyal Jones
Humor is as integral to country music as the price tag is to Minnie Pearl’s hat. Appalachian culture legend Loyal Jones writes as only he can, presenting an encyclopedia of country music comedians and storytellers. As funny as his subjects, Jones covers performers from such early stars of vaudeville and radio barn dances as the Skillet Lickers and the Weaver Brothers and Elviry, to regulars on Hee Haw and the Grand Old Opry, before continuing to current comedians like the Austin Lounge Lizards and Jeff Foxworthy. Jones places each performer squarely in the context of the country music community and its performing traditions. It’s comprehensive. It’s fun to read. It’s an expert doing such fine expertin’ you get smarter while you laugh.
Engaging Humor, by Elliott Oring
This book attempts to explain how humor works. Okay. That’s frightening. BUT: this book also has a monkey on the cover.
Elliott Oring offers examples of jokes and riddles that reveal humor to be a significant form of expression. Boldly going into laffs, Oring gvies us classic Jewish jokes, frontier humor, racist cartoons, blonde jokes, and Internet humor. He also shows how the incongruity and absurdity essential to the production of laughter can serve serious communicative ends. Engaging Humor examines the thoughts that underlie jokes, the question of racist motivation in ethnic humor, and the use of humor as a commentary on social interaction. We won’t even mention that it also explores the relationship between humor and sentimentality and the role of humor in forging national identity, because that doesn’t sound very funny.