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Stop Me If You've Heard This

A History and Philosophy of Jokes

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


In the fine tradition of On B******t comes this outrageous, uproarious compendium of absurdity, filth, racy paradox, and mature philosophical reflection.
Stop Me If You've Heard This is the first book to trace the evolution of the joke from the stand-up comics of ancient Athens to the comedy-club Seinfelds of today. Cropping up en route are such unforgettable figures as Poggio, a Renaissance papal secretary and sexual adventurer; and Gershon Legman, the FBI-hounded psychoanalyst of dirty jokes. Having explored humor's history in part one, Jim Holt then delves into philosophy in part two. Jewish jokes; Wall Street jokes; jokes about rednecks and atheists, bulimics and politicians; jokes that you missed if you didn't go to a Catholic girls' school; jokes about language and logic itself—all become fodder for the grand theories of Aristotle, Kant, Freud, and Wittgenstein. A heady mix of the high and the low, of the ribald and the profound, this handsomely illustrated volume demands to be read by anyone who has ever peered into the abyss and asked: What's so funny?

From Publishers Weekly

May 12, 2008 – A complete history of the joke and its philosophical motivations will perhaps never be written, as Holt admits that “the joke is not an unchanging Platonic Ideal, but a historical form that evolves over time.” Holt, a contributor to the New Yorker, tries anyway, tracking the joke's evolution from the oldest surviving joke book, the surprisingly blue Greek text Philogelos, to Freud and Kant in explaining how and why we laugh at jokes. The book's second half occasionally lapses into dryness; even Holt suggests that the more interesting a subject is, the more boring the accompanying philosophy. In examining two overlooked aspects of a common joke, Holt presents some illuminating thoughts—jokes evolve more than they are created; they are an ideal way to expel pent-up aggression—and fascinating fringe figures such as Gershon Legman, the controversial and pioneering dirty-joke archivist who saw himself as “the keeper of the deepest subcellar in the burning Alexandria Library of the age; the subcellar of our secret desires, which no one else was raising so much as a finger to preserve.” Highly readable, Holt's effort will appeal to the intellectually curious, and the jokes are pretty funny.
Stop Me If You've Heard This
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Humor
  • Published: Jul 17, 2008
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • Seller: W. W. Norton
  • Print Length: 160 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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