The starting-point for such debates is usually the question: is funniness a feature of what is laughed at, or is it a feature of the mind of the perceiver? The similarity with very traditional arguments about beauty is no coincidence, for in fact this question refers us straight to a central element in the theory of meaning. As is well known, the basis of semiotics is the proposition that a sign is an object that stands in for some other object for somebody; in other words, any sign is such only insofar as it has meaning for its user or users. All meaning resides in an interaction between the mind, culture and the empirical worldthis is a banality (although attempts to turn it into a precisely articulated description are notoriously difficult and the location of most major disagreements in the theory of meaning). Where humour is concerned, it at least indicates where to look for an answer to our initial question. Specifically, it indicates the sterility of seeking funniness either entirely in the mind of the laugher or entirely in the phenomenon which evokes mirth: it is in the interaction between the two that answers must be sought. This avoids two obvious shortcomings of many traditional conceptions of humour: on the one hand, variations in what is found funny lead to the argument that nothing is inherently funny; on the other, if we say that humour resides entirely in the mind of the laugher, it is difficult to explain collective humour and we would have to hypothesise that indices of mirth would appear random to outside observers,

as there would be no framework for explaining why other people laugh. A valid theory of the structure of humour must therefore seek an explanation in the interaction between the laugher and the laughable object, where the object has some describable attributes that make it an appropriate object for mirth, and where the mind-set of the laugher has some feature(s) that produce mirth.