Humor at its best is a somewhat fluid and transitory element, but most books about it are illustrated with hardened old jokes from the comic papers, or classic witticisms jerked out of their context. Max Eastman, in this work, avoids this catastrophe by quoting mainly from contemporary American humor. This is not an anthology in that selections have been made with a view to making a point rather than covering the field.

The purpose of Eastman's fabled work is to make the reader laugh. Since his early school days, it has seemed to him that textbooks are wrongly written in that they are conducted in a way which ignores the natural operation of the mind. As a result, the opinion is universal, and under the circumstances a fact, that in order to learn anything you have to study. Since this introduction to humor is itself near to writing a textbook, Eastman uses the very text he constructs to illustrate the manner in which textbooks should be written.

Examination and classification of the kinds of humorous experience upon the basis of a theory is a science. As such, this work offers a fair chance to illustrate a method of instruction. However, the distinction between a good joke and a bad one will not prevent the reader from making bad jokes nor enable one to make good ones. There is an artistic and playful element that simply cannot be taught. Enjoyment of Laughter presents a total view of the science of laughter and draws upon some of the great American humorists to do so.

part 1|3 pages

Fun and Funny

part 2|7 pages

Babies and Grown-Ups

part 3|33 pages

Why We Laugh Like Human Beings

chapter 1|3 pages

The Importance of Not Being Earnest

chapter 2|7 pages

The Gift of Being Tickled

chapter 3|5 pages

Infant Laughter

chapter 4|4 pages

Do Babies Feel Derisive?

chapter 5|7 pages

Adult Laughter

chapter 6|5 pages

Eddie Cantor on the Auction Block

part 4|66 pages

Varieties of Humorous Experience

chapter 11|4 pages

Witty Jokes and Ludicrous Perceptions

chapter 12|9 pages

The Definition of Wit

chapter 13|5 pages

That Nonsense Must Be Plausible

chapter 14|5 pages

Funny Things and People

chapter 15|4 pages

Funny Pictures

chapter 16|5 pages

Poetic Humor

chapter 17|9 pages

Comical Figures of Speech

chapter 18|5 pages

Two Kinds of Comic Action

chapter 19|6 pages

A Mote on Comic Styles

part 5|33 pages

Having Fun With Language

chapter 22|5 pages

Atrocious Puns

chapter 23|6 pages

Witty Puns

chapter 24|6 pages

Poetic Puns

chapter 25|6 pages

The Fun of Distorted Words

chapter 26|8 pages

That Bad Grammar Is Good Fun

part 6|64 pages

Laughing at Too-Much and Not-Enough

chapter 27|7 pages


chapter 29|16 pages

The American Blend of Humor—A Digression

chapter 30|13 pages


chapter 31|10 pages

Understatement as a Weapon; Irony

chapter 32|9 pages

Sarcasm and the Irony of Fate

part 7|66 pages

The Prevailing Topics of Laughter

chapter 33|9 pages

Playthings of the Moment

chapter 34|4 pages

Matrimony and Other Painful Pleasures

chapter 35|10 pages

Satire and Sympathetic Humor

chapter 36|8 pages

Degrees of Biting

chapter 37|3 pages

Slapstick and Aggressive Humor

chapter 38|6 pages

Risqué and Ribald Jokes: Freud’s Theory

chapter 42|7 pages

Why Truth Is Humorous

part 8|50 pages

How to Tell Good Jokes from Bad

chapter 43|11 pages

To Diagram a Joke

chapter 44|37 pages

The Ten Commandments of the Comic Arts

part |29 pages


chapter |15 pages

Some Humorists on Humor

chapter |11 pages