He who laughs last usually has to have the joke explained. But then why bother? After all, nothing kills humor faster than analysis. That sentiment has long dogged humor studies, a field often disparaged as an affront, even an existential threat, to its subject matter. It’s just a joke: Don’t overthink it.
But what if humor (or mirth, in research speak) is intimately linked to thinking? What if we’d have trouble thinking without it? That’s the argument of “Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind” (MIT Press, 2011).