The children's Author EB White once quipped: 'Analysing humour is like dissecting a live frog. No one is interested and the frog dies.' Studying comedy, at university level, has encouraged a number of criticisms, but two have dominated: that it is too frivolous when more 'serious' matters need to be investigated; and it is somehow beyond investigation because some people are just funny - they have 'funny bones' - and cannot, therefore, be studied or taught. Instead, comedy is seen as something that should be extra-curricular, like the footlights at Cambridge, and not part of serious academic work. To suggest otherwise leads to accusations of 'dumbing down', wasting public money, and 'soft' subjects on the curriculum.
In this talk I want to suggest that studying comedy offers us fascinating insights and important possibilities. The talk will seamlessly (hopefully) explore a path through evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, health care, pedagogy, cultural anthology, the performing arts, and other academic fields, looking at the work of comedy and humour scholars. Specifically, the areas discussed will include: the benefits of tickling rats to neuroscience; whether computers can tell jokes (or understand them); why stand-up comedy saved Dave Pitt's life (and who Dave Pitt is); and why you can get away with making very close-to-the-knuckle jokes in Japan but only under very specific circumstances. The talk will also briefly look at stand-up comedy, and my own doctoral research in which I argued that laughter rarely has much to do with anything being objectively funny, but is more connected to human relationships. Finally, I shall examine Bright Club, the comedy club where academics present research as comedy, and argue that all academics - however reluctant they may be - should be encouraged to perform stand-up comedy.
Biography: Tim Miles wrote jokes for BBC radio as an undergraduate, subsequently running his own comedy club booking the then unknown Al Murray and Graham Norton. Having taught in Higher Education for ten years he was awarded a PhD by the University of Surrey in 2014, his doctoral research examining ways of analysing live stand-up comedy. He has been a member of the editorial board of Comedy Studies since 2010, and is currently their Reviews Editor. He has published on a number of areas relating to comedy, including: comic responses to the 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland; humour and the erotic; and emotion in stand-up comedy. He occasionally performs stand-up at various Bright Clubs, winning the 'worst pun' award in 2013 for a joke about Nietzsche, which he promises not to tell during this talk.