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What's So Funny? The Nature and Value of Humor

Presented by John Morreall
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014
7:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Weber Chapel Auditorium

The lecture will address traditional prejudices against humor in Western culture, and the recent interest in humor in academe, medicine and business. Morreall will present his theory of humor as the enjoyment of a cognitive shift, drawn from his books Taking Laughter Seriously, The Philosophy of Laughter and Humor, and Comic Relief. Lastly, he shows the main ways in which humor is valuable, using concrete examples to demonstrate that:

  1. Laughter is medically and psychologically healthy, especially in its reduction of stress
  2. Humor promotes mental flexibility--tolerance for change and diversity, risk-taking, coping with mistakes and failure, and creative problem-solving
  3. Humor serves as a social lubricant, helping people rise above personal differences and communicate more effectively, especially in potentially offensive interactions such as criticism and conflict resolution

Morreall is an internationally recognized authority on humor and its medical, psychological and social benefits. A professor and chair of the religious studies department at the College of William & Mary, he has been teaching university courses on humor since 1983 and is the author of many books and articles. In 2000, an international Humor Congress based on his book, Humor Works, was held in Amsterdam. Since 1988 he has been on the editorial board of Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, and has also served on the board of the International Journal for Humor and Health. In 2004-05, he was president of the International Society for Humor Studies. His work has been featured in such newspapers as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, as well as in The Economist, Forbes and Businessweek.



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