Update 2: Outlining the Literature Review

Today is July 1st, which marks the official start of my research project. Since my last blog post, I’ve outlined what the literature review will need to cover in order to answer my research question: is it possible to predict a particular person’s response, i.e. humor, boredom, or offense, to a Cards Against Humanity joke?¹ If I’m going to answer this question and propose a model with any predictive power, I have to not only identify the underlying theoretical structure of humor but also the various factors that then influence a particular person’s experience of humor in practice. Put simply, I need to find what generally makes something funny—as opposed to boring or offensive—and then what makes something funny to a specific person. [Read more…]

Update 1: Beginning to Dissect the Frog

The Humor CodeAlthough I’m not set to officially begin my research until July 1st, I decided to get a head start. I began by reading Peter McGraw (PhD) and Joel Warner’s The Humor Code: A Global Search For What Makes Things Funny—a book my advisor, Sociology Professor Thomas Linneman, gave me to help jumpstart the project.¹ McGraw is an academic and Warner is a journalist which meant The Humor Code had enough theory, fieldwork, and analysis to act as a springboard for my own research while also having enough story, style, and humor of its own to justify it as a pleasure-read. In The Humor Code, Dr. McGraw and Warner travel the world exploring which aspects of humor are universal and which differ greatly from culture to culture, person to person. In the coming blog posts, I’ll share the specifics of what I learned from this book and how I plan to incorporate it in my own research. For now, I recommend The Humor Code to those interested in travel writing and/or humor studies.  

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ABSTRACT: A Literature Review on Identity, Humor, and Offense—Exploring and Understanding Cards Against Humanity

ABSTRACT: I plan to explore how various aspects of one’s identity–e.g. age, gender, sexuality, race, etc–inform and influence one’s sense of humor as well as one’s sensibility. More specifically, I will conduct a literature review wherein I compile the most relevant scholarly work across several fields on the subject–including humor studies, psychology, and sociology. Finally, I will use the popular party game Cards Against Humanity (CAH) as a connecting focal point for my research. Cards Against Humanity, i.e. “a party game for horrible people”, asks players to choose the funniest punchline Cards-Against-Humanityfrom a set of cards to complete a given setup or prompt–the result is oftentimes a dirty, dark, or satirical joke. As players confront controversial cards, they are forced to decide what is funny and what is simply offensive. Subsequently, each player must define their sense of humor, their sensibility, and their identity amidst a social group. At the same time, players must be mindful of the particular humors, sensibilities, and identities of others in the group. For that reason, CAH is an excellent medium through which to research the interplay of these three factors. This piece of research is an essential first step in moving towards an understanding of the fascinating social phenomenon that is Cards Against Humanity.

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