LISTEN to Janeane's conversation with Ken Jennings!
Ken's latest book, PLANET FUNNY: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture --explains how we are living in a golden age of comedy and funniness is paramount. PLANET FUNNY explores our brave new comedic world and what it means—or doesn’t—to be funny in it now.
For millennia of human history, the future belonged to the strong. To the parent who could kill the most animals with sticks and to the child who could survive the winter or the epidemic. When the Industrial Revolution came, masters of business efficiency prospered instead, and after that we placed our hope in scientific visionaries. Today, in a clear sign of evolution totally sliding off the rails, our most coveted trait is not strength or productivity or even innovation, but being funny. Yes, funniness.
It happened so gradually that we didn't even notice: everything got funny. Fifty years ago, “Don’t use humor in advertising” was an axiom on Madison Avenue. Now the average American sees two hundred funny media ads per day. “You must be solemn as an ass” was the bedrock of conventional political wisdom for centuries. Now, a generation gets its news from comedy satire shows and political candidates hire joke writers to craft zingers for debates. Newspaper headlines and church marquees, once fairly staid affairs, must now be “clever,” stuffed with puns and winks. Airline safety tutorials—those terrifying laminated cards about the possibilities of fire, explosion, depressurization, and drowning—have been replaced by joke-filled videos with multimillion-dollar budgets and dance routines.
We are living in a golden age of comedy and funniness is paramount. In PLANET FUNNY: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture (Scribner; On-sale May 29th, 2018), legendary JEOPARDY! champion and New York Times bestselling author Ken Jennings explores this brave new comedic world and what it means—or doesn’t—to be funny in it now.
Tracing the evolution of humor from the caveman days to the bawdy middle-class antics of Chaucer to Monty Python’s game-changing silliness to the fast-paced meta-humor of The Simpsons, Jennings explains how we built our humor-saturated modern age, where comedians are our Cronkites, Twitter spits out hundreds of jokes every minute, and a comic figure can even be elected President of the United States purely on showmanship. Entertaining, astounding, and completely head-scratching, Planet Funny is both a full taxonomy of what spawned the modern sense of humor and an exploration what it might mean to live in a post-serious world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
KEN JENNINGS grew up in Seoul, South Korea, where he became a daily devotee of the quiz show Jeopardy! In 2004, he successfully auditioned for a spot on the show and went on an unprecedented seventy-four game victory streak worth $2.52 million. Jennings’s book Brainiac, about his Jeopardy! adventures, was a critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller, as were his follow-up books Maphead and Because I Said So! Jennings is the host of the Omnibus podcast and lives in Seattle with his wife Mindy and two children.