Planet Funny: How Comedy Ruined Everything

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Simon and Schuster, Jul 9, 2019 - Social Science - 320 pages
3 Reviews
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A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year

The witty and exuberant New York Times bestselling author Ken Jennings relays the history of humor in “lively, insightful, and crawling with goofy factlings,” (Maria Semple, author of Where’d You Go Bernadette)—from fart jokes on clay Sumerian tablets to the latest Twitter gags and Facebook memes.

Where once society’s most coveted trait might have been strength or intelligence or honor, today, in a clear sign of evolution sliding off the trails, it is being funny. Yes, funniness.

Consider: Super Bowl commercials don’t try to sell you anymore; they try to make you laugh. Airline safety tutorials—those terrifying laminated cards about the possibilities of fire, explosion, depressurization, and drowning—have been replaced by joke-filled videos with multimillion-dollar budgets and dance routines. Thanks to social media, we now have a whole Twitterverse of amateur comedians riffing around the world at all hours of the day—and many of them even get popular enough online to go pro and take over TV.

In his “smartly structured, soundly argued, and yes—pretty darn funny” (Booklist, starred review) Planet Funny, Ken Jennings explores this brave new comedic world and what it means—or doesn’t—to be funny in it now. Tracing the evolution of humor from the caveman days to the bawdy middle-class antics of Chaucer to Monty Python’s game-changing silliness to the fast-paced meta-humor of The Simpsons, Jennings explains how we built our humor-saturated modern age, where lots of us get our news from comedy shows and a comic figure can even be elected President of the United States purely on showmanship. “Fascinating, entertaining and—I’m being dead serious here—important” (A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically), Planet Funny is a full taxonomy of what spawned and defines the modern sense of humor.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - LynnB - LibraryThing

In this book, Ken Jennings explores the way humour has pervaded all aspects of modern life, from politics, to social commentary, to airline safety videos. He also discusses how ideas of what is or isn ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rivkat - LibraryThing

Jennings has written a witty book about the creep of humor into every aspect of our lives, from advertising to news to ordinary interactions (especially on social media). I think the point is to end ... Read full review

Contents

ONE OUR FUNNY CENTURY
1
TWO FUNNY FOR NO REASON
28
THREE THE MARCH OF PROGRESS
61
FOUR NOTES FROM AN EPIDEMIC
89
SEVEN BON JOVI COME HOME
162
EIGHT MIRTH CONTROL
186
NINE A BLURRY AMORPHOUS THUD
205
ELEVEN NEW TIRYNTHA
260
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About the author (2019)

Ken Jennings grew up in Seoul, South Korea, where he became a daily devotee of the quiz show Jeopardy! In 2004, he successfully auditioned for a spot on the show and went on an unprecedented seventy-four game victory streak worth $2.52 million. Jennings’s book Brainiac, about his Jeopardy! adventures, was a critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller, as were his follow-up books Maphead and Because I Said So! He is also the author of Planet Funny. Jennings lives in Seattle with his wife Mindy and two children.

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