Two birds were sitting on a perch. One says to the other, “do you smell fish?”
Note the classic minimal use of the opening statement, followed by the use of the pun, and the surprise element - the fact that in absurd jokes animals can speak, and they usually do. Perhaps explaining humour kills it and then again, perhaps studying it can tell us something about human behaviour.
For sociologist Dr Sharon Lockyer, of Brunel University, London, comedy is a serious subject for study. She is the Director of the UK’s first Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR) which will launch on 9 October with a conference open to the public.
The panellists will include both working comedians and academics who teach and write about the subject. Stand-up comedian, writer and actress Jo Brand, who holds an Honorary Doctorate in Social Sciences from Brunel and is a former student, will be on a panel with Geoff Rowe, founder of Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival, and performer Steve Best, co-founder and the only non-disabled member of Abnormally Funny People, a group of stand-up comics. Lee Mack, also a Brunel University graduate who received an honorary doctorate in Humanities from the University, will also join the debate.
The research panel includes Brunel's Dr Simon Weaver, Dr Brett Mills from the University of East Anglia, and Professor Liesbet van-Zoonen of Loughborough University and Erasmus University, Rotterdam.
The Centre will promote an international, interdisciplinary approach to understanding comedy and is supported by five CCSR Ambassdors, including Eastenders actor Nitin Ganatra who plays Masood as well as Jo Brand, Lee Mack, Geoff Rowe and Simon Minty.
Dr Lockyer commented: “If a student is reading Sociology and Communications, understanding the role of comedy in society is absolutely fundamental.
“Comedy is really important to society. For example there is a rise in the number of disabled comedians who use comedy to break barriers and raise an audience’s awareness of its own possible prejudices.”
The multidisciplinary aims of the Centre are to integrate research in the fields of media and communications, sociology, psychology, theatre, drama, film and television, computing, English, creative writing and social work, using comedy as the common denominator.
The new research centre will cover stand-up, literature, clowning, television comedy, and the joking and humour that is used in daily life.
The launch of the Centre for Comedy Studies Research will be held on 9 October 2013, 2.30pm-7.30pm, at the Antonin Artaud Theatre, Brunel University, UB8 3PH. Attendance is free and tea and coffee will be provided. Due to popular demand registration is essential - please register online.