The Anatomy of Funny


McGraw’s studies have led him to endorse something called the benign-violation theory, which holds that “humor only occurs when something seems wrong, unsettling, or threatening (i.e., a violation), but simultaneously seems okay, acceptable, or safe (i.e., benign.)” The form this takes in most jokes and comic situations is to begin with the threat of a violation of some sort and save the uneasiness this causes by its turning benign at its end.

Commentary Magazine dissects the gory insides of humor.

Lyz's writing has been published in the New York Times Motherlode, Jezebel, Aeon, Pacific Standard, and others. Her book on midwestern churches is forthcoming from Indiana University Press. She has her MFA from Lesley and skulks about on Twitter @lyzl. Lyz is a member of The Rumpus Advisory Board and a full-time staff writer for the Columbia Journalism Review. More from this author →