Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Arthur Asa Berger's Basic Techniques of Humor

I'm finishing up on that semiotics peer day. Having a hard time letting it go, actually. Learners keep sending in their essays, and I can't seem to stop reading Arthur Asa Berger. He illustrates his own book with these delightful little comic drawings, like the ones that pun on the word "con." You have to see them to understand. But today I came to the part I that made my hair stand on end. I said, "Holy Shit! This could be, like, the total framework for my program." Let me explain.

I'm talking about Berger's book Signs in Contemporary Culture: An Introduction to Semiotics (2nd Edition), where mentions "Signs that Lie." He gets on the topic of parody as a "technique of humor (as contrasted to a form of humor, such as the joke or riddle)" (102). Okay, so that might only be exciting to me. But on the next page of the book is the table I reproduced above, where he classifies these various techniques of humor. I read these columns vertically. The first column on language struck me, maybe not 100%, but in great share, as New York humor. Then, the second column, Logic, struck me as the more subtle Midwest humor. I saw elements of both the South and Hollywood in both Identity and Action. But I wondered if there was some heuristic of classification possible here, some dissertation work. I have to think more about this, but it seems like a big, important idea.