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Peter McGraw and Joel Warner
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Entries by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner

Time to Put Humor Under the Microscope

(23) Comments | Posted August 2, 2013 | 8:00 AM

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

Daniel Dennett makes a good point in his TEDTalk, Cute, Sexy, Sweet, Funny, when he argues our sense of humor must accomplish important evolutionary...

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A Professor Walks Into a MOOC...

(3) Comments | Posted May 17, 2013 | 10:06 AM

Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are garnering lots of attention these days. Some see large-scale, web-based classes as the new frontier for colleges and universities, a great leap forward that could revolutionize higher education. Duke University professor of psychology and behavioral economics Dan Ariely and his colleagues at the...

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Your Mind Is a Sloppy Humor Research Laboratory

(4) Comments | Posted November 16, 2012 | 3:05 PM

Some of civilization's great thinkers pondered the meaning of humor long and hard. Thomas Hobbes put forth the idea that humor emerges from superiority or "sudden glory" over an enemy. Immanuel Kant believed humor arose from a process of incongruity in which a "strained expectation" is transformed into "nothing."

Unfortunately,...

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Who Has a Bigger Funny Bone: Democrats or Republicans?

(79) Comments | Posted October 31, 2012 | 3:58 PM

However you slice and dice the presidential candidates' performances at the three debates, there's little question that Barack Obama won on the comedy front.

Before the second debate was even over, an Internet meme had sprung up around challenger Mitt Romney's clumsy claim that he'd sought out "binders...

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The Danish Cartoon Crisis of 2005 and 2006: 10 Things You Didn't Know About the Original Muhammad Controversy

(25) Comments | Posted September 25, 2012 | 1:25 PM

With thousands taking to the streets in protest after a YouTube video mocked Muhammad, many pundits are comparing the situation to the mother of all Muslim controversies: the so-called Muhammad Cartoon Crisis of 2005 and 2006, which exploded after Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a dozen cartoons under the headline "The...

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Understanding Unintentional Comedy

(1) Comments | Posted September 17, 2012 | 12:00 PM

A few months ago, Pete received an email from Nick Justicz (a comedy aficionado who has worked alongside comedians at The Comedy Store), which commented on his humor research. One part of his email stood out:


I was watching the great film "The Pianist" the other day...

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Why It is Important to Crack the Humor Code

(1) Comments | Posted September 7, 2012 | 5:19 PM

Humor has been around for as long as there has been humanity -- and considering that chimps and other primates laugh, humor has likely been around even longer than that. In comparison, psychological research on humor is just getting cracking.

Sure, Freud took a stab at it, but he didn't...

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Most Things (Even Funny Things) Aren't Funny

(2) Comments | Posted July 11, 2012 | 12:02 PM

The studies Pete runs at his Humor Research Lab often require his subjects to create something funny, like a write a joke or come up with an amusing caption. But when other folks are asked to rate what they've come up with, we run smack into an unfortunate...

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Should Science Crack the Humor Code?

(7) Comments | Posted May 31, 2012 | 4:37 PM

"Trying to define humor is one of the definitions of humor." So said Saul Steinberg, someone who wielded humor so expertly that he became one of America's most beloved cartoonists. If Steinberg didn't need to define humor in order to use it beautifully, why should anyone else need to?

It...

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Deconstructing Romney's 'Bullygate': The Science of Pranks

(128) Comments | Posted May 14, 2012 | 9:20 PM

Suddenly, high school horseplay has become a matter of national importance.

What prompted this renewed debate on pranks and youthful bad behavior? Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney stands accused of bullying a presumptive gay classmate decades ago at the private high school he attended, apparently going so...

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The Humor Code: Comedians Versus Science at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival

(0) Comments | Posted April 26, 2012 | 11:53 AM

We knew our "Humor Code" panel, last Saturday at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland, wasn't going to go as planned when comedian Mary Mack showed up on stage for it with two beers, three energy drinks, three waters and a Swiss army knife.

We'd thought the event...

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Bridgetown Comedy Fest: Founder Andy Wood Dishes on Portland's Comedy Revival

(0) Comments | Posted April 11, 2012 | 12:43 PM

For a long, long time, the comedy scene in Portland, Oregon, was anemic. No "A-room" comedy clubs, no big comedy bookers, no national buzz.

That changed in 2008 with the launch of the city's Bridgetown Comedy Festival, which featured 50 comedians and headliner Patton Oswalt. The following year,...

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The Mad Men Experiment: Does Boozing Lead to Funnier Ads?

(11) Comments | Posted January 31, 2012 | 1:37 PM

You've seen it on Mad Men: The agency's creative staff whiles away the noon hour with a liquid lunch of Old Fashioneds, then pops back into the office and whips off a whimsical Lucky Strike ad campaign that gets the masses chomping at the bit for tobacco sticks.

...
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Gender And Humor: Was Christopher Hitchens Right When He Said Women Aren't Funny?

(27) Comments | Posted January 3, 2012 | 2:45 PM

Celebrated polemicist Christopher Hitchens, who passed away last month, never lacked targets for his writerly ire: Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, Gore Vidal -- even Mother Teresa was not immune. But in a polarizing 2007 Vanity Fair essay, Hitchens outdid himself, taking aim at the entire female species. Women aren't...

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