What is humour? Why do we laugh? And why is the root of a good joke almost always error?
Good jokes, bad jokes, clever jokes, dad jokes – the desire to laugh is universal. But why do we find some gags hilarious, whilst others fall flat? Why does explaining a joke make it less amusing rather than more so? Why is laughter contagious, and why did it evolve in the first place?
Using the oldest jokes and the latest science, in The Comedy of Error, Professor Jonathan Silvertown investigates why we laugh: from laughter's evolutionary origins, to similarities and differences in humour across cultures, and even why being funny makes us sexier.
As this unique book demonstrates, understanding how humour really works can provide endless entertainment.
Jonathan Silvertown is Professor of Evolutionary Ecology in the Institute of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of seven previous books.
"[...] in among the jokes, there is a (sort of) serious pursuit of the evolution of, well, certainly not jokes, and not quite laughter either - maybe wit would be the best word. And what is the point of wit, from a Darwinian perspective? Well, of course it's all about..., no, read the book, which I guarantee will provide an hour, maybe two, of both enlightenment and enjoyment, along with the odd chuckle."
– Ken Thompson, The Niche, spring 2021