Funny Planet – How Comedy Ruined Everything by Ken Jennings [Duke University Bookstore]
This book is amazing. Unsurprising for a many multiple time Jeopardy winner, this book is packed full of comedy history, facts, anecdotes, scientific studies and insightful commentary.
I picked it up when my son was doing a summer camp at Duke last year. I read a chapter or two, then for the next year wasn’t in the mood to hear how my last refuge from the state of the world was *also* terrible. With polls trending my way a bit and in the throes of a pleasantly escapist beach vacation, I summoned the will to dive into it again.
And man, was I glad I did. it is easily one of the best books I’ve read in the past few years, despite the rather dire thesis that the current saturation level of comedy permeating our every hour has led to many ills, including our current president.
There is so much to take from this book, both hopeful and disappointing, that I hardly know how to thimbalize it for this post.
One important bit is the evidence that mocking or making light of serious societal dangers, even with the best intentions of raising awareness or opposing them, can have the unintended consequences of dulling our perception of the importance. The Colbert Report in its attempt to point out the foibles of flawed conservative thinking may have helped enable it. John Stewart’s delight at the comedy cornucopia of Trump’s candidacy may have helped obscure the dangers therein. To say nothing of the comedy arms race on Twitter.
Everyone with an interest in comedy should read this book. I’ll loan you my copy.