Humor, Psyche, and Society: A Socio-Semiotic Analysis
by Arthur Asa Berger (San Francisco State University)
The book gives a unique possibility for the reader to be involved and, within it, travel in time and space. The author is open to present his unique and fruitful experience in research, teaching, and traveling taking the reader to the journey to meet jokes of different nations, ideas they imply, and theories on jokes, just as scientists who built theories to be applied for better comprehension and studies. The book is rich in citations and the author’s drawings of famous people involved in discussion. Some of them make you think, while others smile or laugh appreciating humor in a variety of ways.
By narrating the author also teaches the reader how to be effective in idea development. With his own style of writing the author represents his and others’ vision of humorous realities covering global and local spaces together with genre, format, and discourse communities’ representations (Jewish, Russian, American …). A joke is a healer but also a threat-bearer, just as a special phenomenon and a special language that changes the scenery of politics and everyday life.
Finally I should say that the material of the book collected by the author out of previous research writings and adopted for a current reader is a real present for all of us who enjoy life in its various happenings whenever they turn us to smile or a good laugh. I would definitely recommend it to the students writing research on communication and discourse.
Irina Oukhvanova (Oukhvanova-Shmygova)
Founder of the scientific series of books “Discourse Linguistics and beyond”
This book is very well written and original in that it uses social-scientific methods to examine jokes and contextualises within a wider societal context.
Berger has a lovely style of writing that is enjoyable to read while educational at the same time. The book provides analyses of numerous examples that illustrate the structure of jokes. In an illuminating way these analyses are embedded in and related to semiotics, psychoanalysis and sociology.
I would recommend the book to those interested in the social-scientific study of humor as well as those generally interested in having a laugh while learning something we have not thought about before when responding to a joke.
Dr. Dirk vom Lehn
King's College London
Arthur Asa Berger is a name that resonates among those who come to semiotics aiming to grasp its fundamental principles of theory and practice. His many works in the field are both clear and insightful. As such, they allow everyone, from the neophyte to the veteran practitioner, to develop a clear purview of the field and what it implies for understanding human ideas. I myself have always been inspired by Berger’s lucid, yet discerning, writings. Without them, I would have taken a vastly different course. In Confessions of a Wandering Semiotician, Berger does it again. With fluid style and keen perception of subject matter, he takes us on his “wandering” into the field, and when it is over, we are much the wiser. This is required reading for anyone interested in semiotics and for anyone who may want to know what it is all about.
Professor of Anthropology, University of Toronto
Arthur Asa Berger is a highly respected academic who is especially renowned for his work in media and communication studies, two areas in which he has published extensively. This particular volume consists of a collection of essays in and around the subject of humour in which he presents an original notion of “45 techniques” of humour and applies it throughout the book to a variety of jokes, dedicating entire chapters, for example, to Jewish and Russian jokes as well as sitcom dialogue. Berger’s scholarship is beyond doubt; the book is well written and conveys complex theories in a readable manner.
The book will certainly appeal to a wide variety of audiences, including academics in the humanities but also the general public.
Delia Carmela Chiaro
Professor, Department of Interpreting and Translation, University of Bologna
It is the age-old saying that “laughter is the best medicine”. Scientific research has substantiated the claim made by this proverb by verifying the positive effects it has on both our mind and body, but what is it about a good joke, comic, or sitcom that makes us laugh?
Humor, Psyche and Society is a compilation of Berger’s previously published articles and new chapters on the nature of humour, its importance for our psyches, and its social and political significance. Written in an accessible style, it uses semiotics, psychoanalytic theory, sociological theory, as well as other theories of humour to explore the multifaceted nature of humour, various styles of jokes and sitcoms.
Using Berger’s typology of forty-five techniques found in all forms of humour, developed to explain what makes us laugh, this book analyses a variety of humorous texts. Balancing theory, entertaining jokes and other humorous texts, as well as the author’s illustrations, the chapters in this book delve into a diverse range of topics such as humour and the creative process, humour and health, and visual humour; along with an examination of the sitcoms Frasier and Cheers; and finally, the exploration of jokes including Jewish jokes, and jokes on Russia and Communism, and Trump. This book will be of particular interest to university students studying courses in humour, comedy, popular culture, applied semiotics, American politics and culture, and cultural studies. Due to the accessible nature of this book, the general public may find it to be both a fascinating and entertaining read.
Table of Figures
Table of Tables
Preface by Arie Sover
Chapter 1 Writing Li’l Abner
Chapter 2 Anatomy of the Joke
Chapter 3 How Jokes Work: Six Humor Theorists in Search of a Jewish Joke (A Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives on a Humorous Jewish Text)
Chapter 4 Professor Ferdinand de Saussure Goes to a Bar
Chapter 5 Laugh, and the World Laughs with You: A Global Perspective on Humor
Chapter 6 The Triple Threat: Arthur as a Writer, Artist, and Secret Agent or Humor and the Creative Process
Chapter 7 How Humor Heals: An Anatomical Perspective
Chapter 8 Mediated Mirth: A Study of “The Good Son,” the Pilot Episode of Frasier
Chapter 9 Notes on Jewish Humor
Chapter 10 Deconstructing a Russian Joke
Chapter 11 Little Britain: An American Perspective
Chapter 12 I Laughed Last, and I Lasted (But I Took Some Blows Along the Way)
Bibliography of My Publications on Humor
Arthur Asa Berger is the author of more than 100 scholarly articles and more than 70 books on media, popular culture, semiotics and humour. He has written numerous articles on humour which have been published in journals in America and other countries, together with several books on the same subject including: Li’L Abner: A Study in American Satire (his PhD dissertation); An Anatomy of Humor; The Art of Comedy Writing; Blind Men and Elephants: Perspectives on Humor; The Genius of the Jewish Joke; and Jewish Jester.
He taught Comedy Writing and Sitcom Writing in the Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts Department at San Francisco State University for a number of years. Arthur was also elected into the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Communication Hall of Fame. His teaching career spans continents; from teaching at the University of Milan, by way of a Fulbright to Italy in 1963, to later teaching as a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Argentina and Belarus. In addition, he has also lectured in countries such as Iran, France, Germany, Vietnam and China, to name a few. In line with this, many of his books have been translated into nine languages including Chinese and Turkish.
Humor, Semiotics, Psychoanalytic Theory, Sociological theory, Cultural Studies, Linguistics