Laughing Matters

Listen 50:21
A laughing man

(Reafon Gates/Pexels)

There’s not a lot to laugh about right now. But throughout the pandemic, we’ve managed to joke about our shared misery — like making fun of toilet paper hoarding, Zoom mishaps, and mask mumbling. Humor helps get us through tough times. It’s a crucial coping mechanism, a way of connecting with others, and part of what makes us human.

On today’s episode, we explore humor — what makes us laugh, how it works, and the important roles it plays in our lives. We hear stories about inappropriate laughter, why jokes have a shelf life, and using humor to cope with trauma.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • Philosophy professor Robert Clewis discusses different three theories on humor, and what makes us laugh.
  • Timing’s everything when it comes to jokes — including whether and how long they’re funny. Reporter Jad Sleiman explores the life cycle of jokes — what makes them land and what makes them bomb.
  • We talk with neuroscientist Sophie Scott about the science of laughter: what’s it like to study laughter, what it looks like in a brain scanner, and where our sense of humor comes from. Scott is the Director of the Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal