The Humor Code

2 guys. 19 experiments.
5 continents. 91,000 miles.

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, director 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 conducts their own humor experiments along the way—to wince-worthy, hilarious, and illuminating results.

In their quixotic search, they questioned countless experts, including 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.

Select Praise for The Humor Code

The Humor Code

A global search for what makes things funny.

By Peter McGraw
& Joel Warner

Funny, surprising, and often touching, The Humor Code is a revealing exploration of humor, society and an unusual friendship.

Table of Contents

1. Colorado: Set-up

2. Los Angeles: Who is funny?

3. New York: How do you make funny?

4. Tanzania: Why do we laugh?

5. Japan: When is comedy lost in translation?

6. Scandinavia: Does humor have a dark side?

7. Palestine: Can you find humor where you least expect it?

8. The Amazon: Is laughter the best medicine?

9. Montreal: Punch line