The Humor Code

A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny

The Humor Code

Two guys. 19 experiments. Five continents. 91,000 miles. And a book that will forever change the way you think about humor.

Part road-trip comedy and part social science experiment, a scientist and a journalist detail their epic quest to discover the secret behind what makes things funny.

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

In their quixotic search, they questioned countless experts, from comedians like 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 they learned to attempt stand-up—at the largest comedy festival in the world.

Funny, surprising, and often touching, The Humor Code is a revealing exploration of humor, society, and an unusual friendship.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451665437 | 
  • April 2014

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About the Authors

Peter McGraw
Photograph by Kristen Hatgi
Joel Warner
Photograph by Anthony Camera, 2014

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