Examining the business of humor in the Big Apple

Funny sells

Tomorrow, we leave Colorado to get a glimpse of the big business of humor. Although comedy can be found almost anywhere (as we discovered during our trip to Palestine) it’s most apparent where people have substantial resources to commit to creating – and enjoying – comedic entertainment. New York City is one of those places.

……………………Aron Kader, make me laugh

Shortly after landing, we are headed to Gotham Comedy Club to meet with co-owner Chris Mazzilli (who is happens to be a pretty good ball hockey player, as we discovered during the big ball hockey game between talent and industry at the 2011 Just For Laughs comedy festival), to discuss the local comedy-club business. The next day, we visit the world-famous Friar’s Club, home of spectacular celebrity roasts, including that of Johnny Carson. We will also spend the afternoon meeting with a curator at the Paley Center for Media, aka the television and news museum. Joel is the bigger nerd of the two of us, and so he is especially excited about this part of the trip.

To examine comedy in publishing, we will meet with a longtime writer for the Onion. We will also attend next week’s open call for cartoon submissions to The New Yorker. It will be fun to see Bob Mankoff in action. We even hope to shadow a cartoonist as he or she preps for the big open call.

We will also be trading notes with a team of marketing creatives at Grey New York, the advertising agency responsible for the eTrade baby commercials. Together, we will head out on the town with them to test alcohol’s effects on creativity and humor production, Mad Men style.

………………………Pete’s favorite eTrade commercial

We still have unfinished business as we pack out bags. We want to investigate the business of comedy television, but we have gotten nowhere with the PR folks at NBC. We are contemplating standing in line early on Saturday morning to try to get tickets to SNL, and once we get on set, maybe we can army-crawl backstage for some interviews.

Yes, that is how serious we are about trying to figure out what makes things funny.


Joel Warner and I have teamed up to explore the science of humor on a global expedition. Our project, The Humor Code, chronicles our adventures, scientific experiments and unintentional comedy along the way.

For more about the Humor Code, check our:

Web page.

Facebook page.

Twitter account.

Youtube channel.

Flickr account.

Wired blog.

Psychology Today blog.