Encyclopedia of Humor Studies

by Christine Sheehan
Generally, when one thinks of “humor” one thinks of clowns, comedians such as George Carlin or Robin Williams, or of practical jokes and slapstick. Seldom does “dean” come to mind. In this respect, CHSSA’s own, Dean Attardo, is the exception.

Dr. Salvatore Attardo recently edited the “Encyclopedia of Humor Studies,” published this year by Sage Publishing. Almost 1000 pages in length, the two-volume opus was authored by more than 200 contributors, world-wide experts on topics ranging from musical humor to satire, and from parody to the humor of different societies (from the Ancient Greeks to the Chinese, from the American Indians, to the Ancient Babylonians).

Attardo is no stranger to being quoted in the press, but even he has to acknowledge that the recent mentions of his work in the Chronicle of Higher Education, in Slate, and in the New Yorker’s blog (which labeled the Encyclopedia a “sledgehammer” of a work) are a pleasant surprise.

“Humor research has matured into a respectable field,” said Attardo, contrasting this to his own start in the field 30 years ago, when young scholars were discouraged from pursuing an interest in humor studies. “Nowadays, there are several journals and books series for scholars to publish in,” said Attardo. But when I asked if he himself is funny, Attardo paused before saying that he thinks he is, but everybody else disagrees.