Bingo entry 4 – my “so shiny” book is appropriately from Ken Jennings, because he’s now in the “I’ll buy a book about ladders if they wrote it” category for me. After having read Because I Said So, Maphead, and my favorite, Brainiac – a book about his Jeopardy experience and the popularity of trivia that includes actual trivia questions. Be still my heart – I’ll read anything he writes, much less something as attuned to my own interests as a book about how humor impacts our culture. So naturally when I saw this at the bookstore I didn’t want to wait for it long, much less for it to go to paperback.
In true Jennings fashion, the book is thoughtful, well researched, and not afraid to slaughter sacred cows. Jennings is not only funny, but a lover and student of humor, and he impressively threads the needle between appreciating and understanding humor while suggesting it has a place in the world that’s not necessarily “everywhere,” all while avoiding seeming like a scold, and demonstrating that comedy’s increased presence isn’t all bad.
Until he points out how omnipresent humor is, particularly in the US, and supplants it with examples of its absence in the not so distant past, I never really thought about how densely packed entertainment, ads, social media, education, and even politics has become with jokes. Hell, I had to think to figure out why Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood seemed so different from other children’s programming – the show isn’t concerned with being clever so it moves at the pace a child needs – I’m so used to being entertained by damn near everything that I was surprised that a show designed for infants didn’t bother.
In any case, I’ve read other books that have argued similar points, but none so eloquently or entertainingly. In part, of course, because Jennings is funny in writing them.