The Humor Code

  • book-cover-homePart road-trip comedy and part social science experiment, The Humor Code details my epic quest with a humor researcher  to discover the secret behind what makes things funny.

    I teamed up with Dr. Peter McGraw, founder of the Humor Research Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, on a far-reaching search for the secret behind humor. Our journey spanned the globe, from New York to Japan, from Palestine to the Amazon. Meanwhile, we conducted our own humor experiments along the way—to wince-worthy, hilarious, and illuminating results.

    In our quixotic search, we questioned countless experts, from Louis C.K. to rat-tickling researchers, and answered pressing (and not-so-pressing) questions such as, “What’s the secret to winning the New Yorker cartoon caption contest?” “Who has the bigger funny bone—men or women, Democrats or Republicans?” and “Is laughter really the best medicine?” As a final test, McGraw uses everything we learned to attempt stand-up—at the largest comedy festival in the world.

    The Humor Code has been published in Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Mandarin Chinese and Turkish. If you’re interested, order your copy here.

    Praise and Reviews

    “By asking us to explore the reasons why we laugh, the authors force us to look inside ourselves. It’s not often you can say a book about comedy can teach us some serious lessons. This one does—and entertains us in the process.”
    Booklist, starred review

    The Humor Code is basically an adventure story… [with] more to say about humor than a skeptic might think possible; The Humor Code is a lot [of] fun.”
    New York Times

    “Their book pulls off the neat literary trick of portraying a picaresque scientific enterprise that takes them around the world from Tanzania to Japan to Scandinavia.”
    The Wall Street Journal

    “[T]he authors, in dissecting the nature of humor, shed fascinating light on what makes us laugh and why.”
    The New York Post

    “Peter and Joel’s globe-spanning search for what makes things funny is a wonderful page-turner that entertains as much as it informs.”
    Dan Ariely, bestselling author of The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty and Predictably Irrational

    “Engaging, wise, and of course funny, The Humor Code is a wonderful quest to discover who and what makes us laugh. Pete McGraw and Joel Warner are the best of company, and you’ll be glad you took this trip with them.”
    Susan Cain, bestselling author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

    “I’ve always been fascinated by how humor works. I’m not willing to say that The Humor Codesolves the puzzle once and for all, but it comes pretty close – and along the way it’s a hell of a ride.”
    —Jimmy Carr, Stand-up comedian, television host, actor, and co-author of Only Joking: What’s So Funny About Making People Laugh?

    “If you’ve ever wondered why we laugh at what we do,you have to read this book about the DNA of humor. The odd-couple authors take us on a journey from the halls of science to the backstage of Los Angeles comedy clubs, and they show us why people can laugh amidst tensions in Palestine or a clown brigade in the Amazon. It’s part Indiana Jones, part Tina Fey, and part Crime Scene Investigation, and it will make you smarter and happier.”
    —Chip Heath, bestselling author of DecisiveSwitch, and Made to Stick

    “This book tickled my hippocampus. Joel Warner and Peter McGraw gave me paradigm-altering insights into humor, but also creativity, business, happiness, and, of course, flatulence.”
    —A.J. Jacobs, bestselling author of Drop Dead Healthy and The Year of Living Biblically

    The Humor Code is so good that I wish I wrote it. In fact, I’ve already started telling people I did. Luckily, Pete McGraw and Joel Warner are givers, so they won’t mind. They’ve given us a remarkable look at what makes us laugh, with the perfect blend of science, stories, satire, and sweater vests. This book has bestseller written all over it.”
    —Adam Grant, Wharton professor and bestselling author of Give and Take

    “If you’ve ever been interested in trying comedy, this book will either scare you away from it or force you to do it. I consider both options a success.”
    —Mike Drucker, stand-up comedian and writer for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

    The Humor Code is a fun narrative of how a serious scientific theory is born, tested, and lived.”
    —Ben Huh, CEO of The Cheezburger Network

     “The Humor Code is a rollicking tour de farce that blends academic insights and amusing anecdotes to answer some of the most serious (and frivolous) questions about humor, from what makes us laugh and why we laugh at all, to how the world’s cultures came to have completely different senses of humor.”
    —Adam Alter, assistant professor of marketing and psychology and bestselling author of Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave

    “Upon reading The Humor Code our initial reaction, as we’re sure will be many people’s initial reaction, was, ‘Where the %#!*$ is The Grawlix in all this? How can any legitimate search for the reasoning behind humor not begin, middle and end with The Grawlix?’ Heroically putting our hurt feelings aside, we read on, and were fascinated to learn that not only does the world of humor research exist beyond our limited horizons, so too does humor itself! From hysterical laughing epidemics in Africa; to controversial sketch comedy in Palestine; to our sworn enemies, clowns, dispatched to South America, the search for what makes things funny was one we found we could not stop reading. In the end we came to the same conclusion most people will no doubt come to after reading this book: Japanese people are weird. Two thumbs up (Andrew hated it).”
    —The Grawlix (comedians Adam Cayton-Holland, Andrew Orvedahl, and Ben Roy)