“All the world’s a stage”: incongruity humour revisited

Anton Nijholt*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)
    65 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    Eighteenth and nineteenth century philosophers took interest in humour and, in particular, humorous incongruities. Humour was not necessarily their main interest; however, observations on humour could support their more general philosophical theories. Spontaneous and unintentional humour such as anecdotes, witty remarks and absurd events were the styles of humour that they analysed and made part of their theories. Prepared humour such as verbal jokes were rarely included in their observations, likely dismissed as too vulgar and not requiring intellectual effort. Humour, as analysed by several eighteenth and nineteenth century philosophers, was seen as part of daily life or life simulated on stage. In the twentieth century, Freud emphasized a possible ‘relief’ function of ‘prepared’ humour such as jokes. Additionally, linguists began developing theories to analyse jokes. A joke has a particular structure that is constructed with the aim of achieving a humorous effect. This structure makes jokes suitable for linguistic analysis. In the present-day humour research, jokes have become a main topic of research. This linguistically oriented joke research neglects many other forms of humour: spontaneous humour, non-verbal humour, physical humour, and many forms of unintentional humour that appear in real life. We want to survey and re-evaluate the contributions to the humour research of these eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth century philosophers and clarify that their more general contributions to the humour research have been neglected in favour of the very restricted form of prepared humour and linguistically expressed and analysed humour as it appears in jokes. We hope that the views expressed in this paper will help to steer the humour research away from joke research and help to integrate humour in the design of human-computer interfaces and smart environments. That is, rather than considering only verbal jokes, we should aim at generating smart environments that understand, facilitate or create humour that goes beyond jokes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)405-438
    Number of pages34
    JournalAnnals of mathematics and artificial intelligence
    Volume88
    Issue number5-6
    Early online date12 Dec 2018
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2020

    Keywords

    • Computational humour
    • Human-computer interaction
    • Human-robot interaction
    • Humour theories
    • Incongruity humour
    • Philosophy of humour
    • Smart environments

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