About the book:
Part road-trip comedy and part social science experiment, a scientist and a journalist detail their epic quest to discover the secret behind what makes things funny.
Dr. Peter McGraw, founder of the Humor Research Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, teamed up with journalist Joel Warner on a far-reaching search for the secret behind humor. Their journey spanned the globe, from New York to Japan, from Palestine to the Amazon. Meanwhile, the duo conducts their own humor experiments along the way…. (more info).
Blurbs are arriving! Here are a some new ones:
“The Humor Code is so good that I wish I wrote it. In fact, I’ve already started telling people I did. Luckily, Pete McGraw and Joel Warner are givers, so they won’t mind. They’ve given us a remarkable look at what makes us laugh, with the perfect blend of science, stories, satire, and sweater vests. This book has bestseller written all over it.”
(Adam Grant, Wharton professor and bestselling author of Give and Take)
“If you’re doing business in the global marketplace, The Humor Code is a must read. Not only did I learn what makes things humorous around the world, now I understand why nobody in Japan ever laughed at my jokes!”
(Marty St. George, Senior Vice President of Marketing, JetBlue Airways)
“McGraw and Warner have done something quite remarkable and commendable. They’ve taken an intriguing question regarding the nature of humor and artfully mined answers from both the outcomes of scientific research and their own “world-wide comedy tour” experiences. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
(Robert Cialdini, bestselling author of Influence)
“If you’ve ever been interested in trying comedy, this book will either scare you away from it or force you to do it. I consider both options a success.”
(Mike Drucker, standup comedian and writer for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)
“Blending cutting-edge science and clever stories, The Humor Code will help you find a funnier world — whether you are on Twitter or not.”
(Claire Diaz-Ortiz, author of Twitter for Good and innovator at Twitter, Inc.)
More advance praise here.
Pre-order the book:
Reposted from last year’s popular post.
How have you had friends or family meet a Hollywood actor and marvel at how short he is in real life? (This phenomenon seems to happen more often with males than females, so I will limit the discussion to male actors.)
My friend, @markferne, had this experience recently:
Now, Mark is a tall guy (6′ in shoes). He says that Ty is 5’9″ or 5’10″ (tops; also in shoes) – though if you check the interweb it says that Ty is 5’11″ or 6’0 tall.
…………..Tall or not? You be the judge.
The Telegraph did an article about Hollywood’s shortest actors. Guess who is taller:
….- Emilio Estevez, Richard Dreyfus, or Jason Alexander?
….- Jack Black or Woody Allen?
….- Al Pacino, Ben Stiller, Christian Slater, or Tom Cruise?
Answers based on the article:
….- Emilio Estevez, Richard Dreyfus, andJason Alexander are the same height: 5’4″
….- Jack Black and Woody Allen are the same height: 5’6″
…..- Al Pacino, Ben Stiller, Christian Slater, and Tom Cruise are the same height: 5’7″
Surprised? Seems to me that there are two possible explanations:
Famous actors really are shorter than average. There could be something about television and film production in which shorter people look better on camera (in the same way that tall thin people are thought to look better modeling clothes). Or, perhaps shorter people are more likely to be drawn to acting in the first place. (I am not entirely sure why this would be the case – for instance, sports are less appealing to them because sport tends to reward larger athletes.) In either case, the pool of acting talent could in general be shorter than average. Thus, shorter actors would be more likely to be selected for roles.
Famous actors are shorter than you expect. The big screen makes actors seem larger than life, and actors often are portrayed to be taller than they actually are (e.g., standing on blocks so that they look taller than other often less famous actors or their leading ladies). In either case, famous actors disappoint us relative to our expectations (as Mark notes above).
BTW, there is an ehow article about ways to do make actors taller. My favorite:
Construct undersized doorways for shorter actors to enter through. By doing this, actors will appear taller on screen. Standard sized doorways measure 80 inches, so you can choose to lessen that according to the effect you want to create.
What do you think?
An aside about film…
Guest post today. I assigned the Innovator’s Dilemma to my undergraduate Consumer Behavior class. I also gave them an assignment:
Write a blog post that describes the important takeaway messages from the Innovator’s Dilemma for A) managers and B) entrepreneurs. (Hint: those conclusions are different.) Motivate your message with an example of a disruptive technology that was not discussed in class or in the book.
I told the class that I would publish the best post on my blog. Congratulate Jared Leventhal. Enjoy his post:
The Innovator’s Dilemma: A Tablet of Key Messages for Entrepreneurs and Managers
Clayton Christensen explains in The Innovator’s Dilemma1 that well-managed companies fail because the very practices that previously lead to success also hinder the development of disruptive technologies that ultimately steal away their markets. Disruptive technologies are characterized as simpler, cheaper, lower performing innovations that promise lower margins and profits when compared to current or sustaining technology. Leading firms’ most profitable customers generally cannot use
and do not want disruptive technologies, which are usually first commercialized in emerging or “insignificant” markets. Several key messages result from Christensen’s work, both for entrepreneurs and managers.
A recent example of a potential disruptive technology will be used as illustration: Datawind’s Aakash tablet computer (commercially known as Ubislate), which was introduced in 2011 amidst dominance by the likes of Apple Inc., Samsung Electronics Company, and Amazon.com2
Messages for Entrepreneurs
- The pace of progress that markets demand may differ from the progress offered by the technology. The trajectory of technological progress typically outstrips the demands of current customers. While Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle compete on all levels of technical specifications, the Aakash lags in nearly every category, such as: processor speed, random access memory, flash memory, and camera capabilities4. Yet, the Aakash tablet has been successful in emerging markets, even as its own technology has improved over three generations of the device5.
- Matching the market to the technology presents a challenge. Disruptive technologies succeed in new emerging markets that value the characteristics offered. Disruptive technology should be framed as a marketing challenge, not technological. Datawind cannot compete head-on with the goliaths of the tablet industry. However, an emerging market was identified early in Aakash’s product life cycle: the 220 million students residing in India5, with the Indian government being one of Datawind’s largest customers. Datawind responded to the Indian government’s desire to enable this demographic, and by doing so has realized the potential of the untapped market. A challenge faced by industry leaders is price, creating a barrier to entry.
- A significant barrier to entry and mobility is that small markets of disruptive technologies, the crucial opportunity for investment, do not solve large companies’ growth needs. Large companies need significantly larger profits to realize equivalent growth when compared to smaller firms. In this regard, the commercial version of the Aakash tablet began retailing for USD$54, and is currently priced at USD$625, which varies widely from Apple’s USD$499 entry level price for its iPad6. Industry leaders cannot compete with Datawind on price, creating the opportunity for the entrepreneurial firm to position itself within the market.
Messages for Managers
-Managing innovation mirrors the resource allocation process: only innovation proposals that receive sufficient funding and manpower may succeed. Established firms invest in what existing customers demand, rather than the disruptive innovations that tomorrow’s customers expect. Improving today’s technology through sustaining innovations deceptively appears more financially attractive than investing in a disruptive technology.
- Organizations’ capabilities are more specialized than most managers are inclined to believe. Organizations inherently have capabilities to take certain new technologies into certain markets. Datawind specializes in low-cost devices, exactly where Samsung or Apple simply do not focus their attention. The larger firms have moved upmarket with more advanced technology in pursuit of higher margins.
- The information required to make large and decisive investments in the face of disruptive technology simply does not exist. Markets that do not exist cannot be analyzed. Only managers who allow for iterations, failures, and learning quickly can succeed at developing the understanding of customers, markets, and technology needed to commercialize disruptive innovations. In the case of Datawind, unless its larger competitors spin off independent organizations insulated from quarterly earnings and corporate groupthink, the disruptive technology maker will continue to realize success.
- It is not wise to adopt a blanket technology strategy to be always a leader or always a follower. Adopt different postures depending on whether addressing disruptive or sustaining technology. From a managerial perspective, this translates into flexibility. Samsung, Apple, and Amazon are leaders in the realm of sustaining technology, where Datawind must be a follower, but in India, Datawind’s managers must take the leadership stance in order to solidify its competitive advantage.
In conclusion, disruptive technologies as represented by the Aakash tablet are not immune to competition from established firms and sustaining technologies. However, there is hope, as Christensen states, “The dilemmas posed to innovators by the conflicting demands of sustaining and disruptive technologies can be resolved.” For entrepreneurs and managers alike, go forth and sustain disruption.
 Christensen, Clayton M. (2011). The innovator’s dilemma: The revolutionary book that will change the way you do business. New York: Harper Business.
 Yahoo! (2012). Top 5 manufacturers of tablet computers in 2011. Yahoo! Retrieved from http://finance.yahoo.com
 Passion in Roots Group. (2013). What is the current price of the Aakash Tablet? Aakash Tablet|Ubislate Tablet. Retrieved from http://aakash.org
 NDTV Convergence Limited. (2011). How the Aakash compares to other tablets. NDTV Gadgets. Retrieved from http://gadgets.ndtv.com
 Datawind. (2013). Aakash low cost tablets. Datawind. Retrieved from http://www.akashtablet.com
 Apple Inc. (2013). Shop iPad. Apple Store. Retrieved from http://store.apple.com
Have you been to a haunted house recently? There are two kinds of comedy associated with haunted houses:
- You observe people being scared and then laughing about it.
- You laugh at people’s reactions to being scared.
Both seem to be happening here. Check out more here.
Yes, the Wes Craven. The man behind Nightmare On Elm Street, The Hills have Eyes, and Paris Je T’aime. He was doing a Q&A at the Cinefamily after a screening of People Under The Stairs in Los Angeles and I decided to press him on the use of levity in his films.
“Horror and comedy are like brother and sister,” is the only line I dare quote directly, since I wasn’t really taking notes when he answered my question.
Haunted houses are funny because they often fit the conditions with the benign violation theory. The theory proposes that humor occurs when a situation is simultaneously seen as wrong, unsettling or threatening (i.e., a violation) and okay, acceptable or safe (i.e., benign).
Haunted houses do exactly that. They scare people in a safe way. Right?
By the way, a few weeks ago I wrote about a fun twitter hashtag (#addawordruineamovie). Well, a new one cropped yesterday: #HalloweenRappers.
Given my love of Halloween and hip hop, I had to participate.
Perhaps my favorite comes from The Humor Code’s twitter account:
James Craig recently came to my Buyer Behavior class to talk about B2B sales and marketing. After his guest lecture, I asked him to complete fill in the blank:
James recognizes that:
-Consistent with B2C marketing lessons, it is important to understand the needs of the customer.
-Unlike B2C marketing, the needs of buyers in a B2B context are quite different.
-Understanding the need for B2B buyers to get paid (i.e., keep their job), get made (i.e., get promoted), and get hugs (i.e., be appealing to others), is a useful framework for vendors to think about how to shape their sales message.
PS: B2C = business to consumer. B2B = business to business
Why are these funny camera angles funny?
A funny camera angle is funny when it creates a benign violation. The benign violation theory proposes that humor occurs when a situation is simultaneously seen as wrong, unsettling or threatening (i.e., a violation) and okay, acceptable or safe (i.e., benign). A survey of the photos above reveal what seems to be big violations (e.g., nudity, fisting) that are not real upon closer scrutiny.
In case you missed it, the Twitter hashtag, #AddaWordRuinaMovie, blew up on Saturday. A simple, fun concept. I jumped right in with:
Lawrence Fishburn of Arabia
Back to the Future Tense
Dog Day Afternoon Tea
The Graduate School
La Dolce Curriculum Vita
The Shawshank Redemption Center
Kramer vs. Cosmo Kramer
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mindshaft
At the time, I was hanging out with Dan Goldstein (@dggoldst). He suggested an excellent strategy. Start with a serious movie and then figure out the word that will ruin the movie while also making it funny. Using the strategy, he came up with this gem:
Dan’s strategy is evident in my most popular tweet (ever):
What is your best #AddaWordRuinaMovie tweet? Let me know at: @PeterMcGraw
Quick post. I am headed to Chicago for the Association for Consumer Research (ACR) Conference.
The mission of the Association for Consumer Research is to advance consumer research and facilitate the exchange of scholarly information among members of academia, industry, and government worldwide.
Basically, a bunch of nerds get together and talk about the problems they are having getting their papers published.
Three sessions that I am attending:
1. Choice Utility
-Ioannis Evangelidis, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, The Netherlands*
-Jonathan Levav, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, USA
We introduce the concept of choice utility, which describes the utility obtained by how people attain an outcome independent of what the actual outcome is. Our data document preference reversals in classic decision problems when we manipulate the degree of choice utility.
2. Smart Phones, Bad Decisions? The Impact of In-store Mobile Technology Use on Consumer Decisions
-Michael Sciandra, University of Pittsburgh, USA*
-Jeff Inman, University of Pittsburgh, USA
We investigate lay beliefs of in-store mobile technology use and examine how mobile devices alter decisions. While consumers understand the positive implications of these devices, it appears they are unaware of the negatives. Specifically, mobile use leads to more unplanned purchases, more forgotten items, longer shopping times, and additional trips.
3. Malcom Gladwell’s keynote address on his new book David & Goliath.
Three thousand years ago on a battlefield in ancient Palestine, a shepherd boy felled a mighty warrior with nothing more than a stone and a sling, and ever since then the names of David and Goliath have stood for battles between underdogs and giants. David’s victory was improbable and miraculous. He shouldn’t have won.
Or should he have?
In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks
Before I started my sabbatical (which has ended), I made a list of the things that I hoped to accomplish. Did I succeed or fail?
1. Finish working the Humor Code, which is due to publisher on December 31, 2012.
3. Travel to Rotterdam to visit Erasmus University (Fall 2012). Travel to Australia to visit the University of Melbourne (Spring 2013)
Success. Both were great trips. Here are some posts of some of the people that I met.
4. Put on a few pounds. Seriously.
Success. I put on four or five pounds – and I enjoyed doing it.
5. Get several research papers under review.
Semi-success. I moved my research along and managed submit or resubmit the following papers:
-Bauman, C. McGraw, A.P., Bartels, D., & Warren, C. Revisiting external validity: Concerns about trolley problems and other sacrificial dilemmas in moral psychology
-Larsen, J.T. & McGraw, A.P., The case for mixed emotions.
-McGraw, A.P., Kan, C., & Warren, C., Humorous complaining.
-McGraw, A.P., Williams, L.T., & Warren, C. Psychological distance modulates humorous responses to tragedy
-Warren, C. & McGraw, A.P., When humor backfires: Revisiting the relationship between humorous marketing and brand attitude
6. Read an enormous stack of journals that are piled in my office.
Fail. It’s bigger now
7. Start thinking about what my post-Humor Code life might look like. What is the ‘next big thing’?
In process. Check back later for a detailed report.