Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Only Joking: What's So Funny About Making People Laugh?” as Want to Read:
Only Joking: What's So Funny About Making People Laugh?
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Only Joking: What's So Funny About Making People Laugh?

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  531 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Britain’s hottest young comedian presents a seriously funny, up-close look at joking matters—from the social origins of laughter, to the art and craft of humor, to why we can never remember the punch line—featuring over 300 jokes.

As the host of the hit game show Distraction (now in its third season on Comedy Central) and one of the premier stand-up acts working today, aw
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 21st 2006 by Gotham (first published January 1st 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Only Joking, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Only Joking

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,194)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
This is a fun book! A professional comic and his friend, who seems to be some kind of academic type, collaborate to write a treatise on the nature of humour. They've done a good job, and there is at least one joke on every page - a really varied assortment too, ranging from traditional staples (What's brown and sticky?) to sophisticated meta-jokes. Some of the ones I liked most are in my updates.

You can read it for the jokes alone, but I thought the discussion was at least as worthwhile. They lo
Mar 06, 2013 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, humour
Absorbing, funny and surprisingly well written. This is not a shameless celebrity cash-in, this is apparently something which the two authors cared about and wanted to do properly.

They manage the tricky balancing act of fitting plenty of laughs in the text while also taking the subject seriously and giving the reader a really informative and fascinating discussion. Their investigation into every aspect of jokology takes in Elegba the trickster god, The Wise Men of Gotham, the ancient Roman idio
Feb 05, 2016 Erikka rated it really liked it
This was fantastic. I'm a huge fan of Jimmy Carr, so I was expecting an informative book with a humorous and engaging narrator. I was not disappointed. (Kudos to Lucy Greeves as well for her part in the writing--don't want to leave her out, because they co-wrote this so flawlessly that I don't know who wrote what). I enjoyed the scattered jokes, the observations on the role humor plays in our lives, and the stories about the effects humor has had on specific people throughout history.

To save an
Mar 12, 2012 Edmole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I considered covering this up when I read it outside, as Jimmy Carr is one of those comedians who make ironic or ambiguous offensive jokes, then quite happily accept ticket money from people who wouldn't know irony or ambiguity if they hit themselves in the face with them.

Al Murray, he's the worst one for it. And he has such kind eyes.

Anyway, having said that, I like Jimmy, and his jokes make me laugh SO PERHAPS THE JOKE IS ON ME. This book is a very good exploration of all the different aspects
Will Stokeley
Jun 05, 2011 Will Stokeley rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I bought and read this believing it to be a 'how to get more humor in your delivery book'. It isn't.

In this tome, Carr and his co-author repeat the same turgid point chapter after chapter, "Jokes are funny. People like them. If you deconstruct them they loose what makes them funny. "

But deconstruct is precisely what Carr and Comrade try to do. Without much success! They do succeed in making the same points over and over and over, though. Yawn.

Carr includes a few examples of studies done on hum
Steve Mitchell
Aug 02, 2011 Steve Mitchell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although there is a joke at the foot of every page and a dozen between chapters, this is not a particularly funny book. This is a genuine attempt to locate the place that the joke and laughter occupy in the human psyche. As the quote from E. B. White says at the start of chapter five; “Analysing humour is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested, and the frog dies.”
This is a genuinely well thought out treatise into the nature of humour and well worth a look provided you realise that aro
Mike Steven
Jul 30, 2015 Mike Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well written study into the social and historical significance of humour and comedy. It's well researched, well written and treats the subject matter in a serious and adult manner.

As a nice bonus, there's a joke at the foot of each page and a selection of jokes at the end of each chapter. This helps to keep it light during some of the more dense moments.

You've probably got to be a bit of a comedy nerd to enjoy this - but I am, so I enjoyed it a lot.

Thanks to the friend who bought it me
Jun 20, 2015 P rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: funny, non-fiction, own, comedy
Interesting book on different aspects of joking, comedy, and laughter by Jimmy Carr, one of my favorite comedians, and his longtime friend Lucy Greeves. Often meandering, the book does provide many interesting theories and bits of information. It would be improved, however, by either extending the descriptions of the studies, philosophies, et cetera that are mentioned or by cutting down on its verbosity. It also has a large number of jokes--one as a footnote of each page and several pages at the ...more
Mar 08, 2014 Spiros added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who want an answer to the question "Are you havin' a laugh?"
Shelves: freebox, falsestarts
Man walks into a bar...
I got about three-fourths through this book, which was quite fairly enjoyable and mildly thought provoking, when I took it into a regular Friday night Chinatown haunt, and, due to some sadly predictable stupidity between the drunken owner and a douchebag patron, decided that I wanted to be elsewhere. It didn't seem worthwhile wadding back into the shitstorm (the cops had everything under control) to retrieve it, so I guess I'll never know how it turns out. I'm sure it'll b
Dec 08, 2011 Stefanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-brits, non-fic
If you know what you are looking for, this book can GIVE YOU EVERYTHING. Okay, that was an exaggeration, but this book is fantastic IF you are looking for a book ABOUT jokes and humor, the history, the politics, the culture of joking. It is a sort of anthropology. THIS IS NOT A JOKE BOOK. There are jokes on every page (straight forward, lining the bottom of the pages, I mean) and in between each chapter. But the text is a brilliant survey of the joke taken from different perspectives: myths, off ...more
Feb 16, 2014 Lauren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: funny
This book is a funny look at jokes that works well. They explore joking in our society, history, what it's for, how humour is useful, theories of humour, offense, and every other part of joking.
Sep 15, 2008 Oliver rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like most people you probably think Jimmy Carr is a bit of a cock. That occasionally funny bloke who lives on comedy pannel shows and those shows about the 50 most blah blah blah movies/show/events that seem to fill up the Saturday night TV schedule whilst sucking the life out of you. Actual his stand-up material is quite good if a bit formulaic.
Well along with Lucy Greeves (ok she probably did most of the work) he has gone and written a rather brilliant book about comedy. There's also a joke an
Aug 16, 2012 Aoife rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
That was a fascinating read. Full Stop. It was informative, without loosing itself into too much detail and it gave a really good inside to comedy and also a good overview on the history of 'making people laugh', theories on why we laugh at all, etc.
It is questionable if it had needed quite as much one-liners (not so much in the text itself, which is written humoruous without overdoing it) but there's one at the bottom of every page and you get 3-4 pages of jokes of varying quality between the c
Feb 01, 2010 Nancy rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
I hoped this would further my understanding of What is Funny. (And the next question: Why.) It didn't.

However, the introduction about the difference between British and American humor was quite engaging. (Are we Yanks really much less agile with irony?) Unfortunately, the book went on to be a light-weight prance through the social history of jokes and a mediocre review of the humor studies in the sciences.

BUT at the bottom of most of the pages are jokes. Read these. Some are the funny you are
Sophie Duncan
Jun 04, 2011 Sophie Duncan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book and not just for the jokes at the bottom of every page. The observation and humour came through, even though, as Jimmy and Lucy admit, analysing why something is funny can be disastrous in killing the joke. I liked the fact that the book discusses the differences between the two authors at times, showing that not everyone finds the same things funny, but at the same time, looking at how humour is used in so many different situations. This book traverses the line between schol ...more
Feb 19, 2014 Rhys rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very funny & imformative
Sep 28, 2015 Rachel rated it liked it
Shelves: humor, nonfiction
This is a good overview of the research and theory behind humor. The authors try a little too hard to be funny themselves; sometimes I would rather read it in a straightforward tone. It's fun and interesting, though, very well-researched, and a good gateway to other resources in the field.
Apr 11, 2009 James rated it really liked it
Nice compilation of jokes. The biography is a little light, as may be expected of a lesser known comedian. But the jokes cover the breadth of standards (like the one about the Jewish grandmother's kid who gets swept out to sea) and brief kid pleasers (like "What do you call a fish with no eyes? Ans: fsh!").

Along the way, Carr tries to dissect humor. It's a valiant effort, but it doesn't really engage the reader. Probably because it's too dry.

Recommended for the jokes.
An interesting and enjoyable read about the origins of jokes and what that means in the comedy world today. There were some fantastic jokes sandwiched between the chapters. Overall a fairly comprehensive view, though somewhat light in academic terms occasionally, it certainly gave me a few research points to google when I'm bored one day.
Brian McLachlan
Aug 26, 2013 Brian McLachlan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Carr and Greeves have a pretty solid idea of how comedy works, and dissect jokes and humour with great skill and cite some good research. The jokes in the book are also very solid, even if I had heard almost all of them before. For me, it was a bit too afraid to be delve deep, and tried too hard to be funny, but otherwise delivered as promised.
May 20, 2012 Lulie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not bad. I was hoping for a book full of what a joke is made of and how to create them and what makes people laugh, but that was mostly just two chapters and the rest was history and related thoughts. Those two chapters were good though, and it was very interesting to read how Carr thinks about it.
Ray Savarda
Oct 31, 2015 Ray Savarda rated it liked it
Shelves: read-and-sold
The text is rather not funny, giving an wide-ranging analysis of jokes and history, etc. Many of the "bottom-of-the-page" (one on most every page!) jokes are pretty funny, and the section of longer jokes before every chapter holds many funny ones also.
Overall, a decent read.
Feb 28, 2015 Jasmine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-gave-up
I only read the first two chapters of this book. I doubt I will finish reading it; at least not in the new future. I found that it was just repeating the same point over and over, and not even then jokes at the ends of chapters were making it worthwhile.
Darrin Woods
Apr 15, 2013 Darrin Woods rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's got Jimmy Carr in, which makes it aces already. I am very impressed with the balance of scholarly study and a relaxed tone in this volume. If you want to read a book about jokes, not just of jokes, then I would suggest this one.
Josephine Myles
Not only a really interesting dissection of how jokes and humour in general work, but it's a joke book too. I laughed out loud many times while reading! You don't even have to like Jimmy Carr to enjoy the book ;)
Mar 17, 2016 Red rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It's been a few years since I read it, but the more I think about it, the more I believe this is the best non-fiction book I've ever read, leaving a more lasting impression on me, as a person, than any other.
John G.
Aug 10, 2014 John G. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, humorology
The best book I've ever read about humor and laughing, from one of my favorite comics too. Very deep and serious examination of humor, its history, its functions, its value. Great, great jokes too!
Ellen Evers
Nice overview. On one hand it's great that the authors tried to be scientific, on the other hand, they did not manage to distinguish between good research and weird speculation.
Dave Powell
good book, thought provoking and funny. favourite joke was one by Les Dawson -

"apparently there is this tribe that worships the number zero - is nothing sacred?"
Sep 22, 2011 Barry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read a book on this subject before and I'm not a particular fan of Carr's comedy, but I can't help but appreciate the passion he (and his co-author) writes with.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 39 40 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Satiristas: Comedians, Contrarians, Raconteurs & Vulgarians
  • Stop Me If You've Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes
  • Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind
  • Reasons To Be Cheerful
  • The ‘If You Prefer a Milder Comedian, Please Ask for One’ EP
  • God Collar
  • Tragically I Was an Only Twin: The Complete Peter Cook
  • The Comic Toolbox: How to Be Funny Even If You're Not
  • Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature
  • The Hell of It All
  • The 100 Most Pointless Things in the World
  • Everything Explained Through Flowcharts: All of Life's Mysteries Unraveled Including Tips for World Domination, Which Religion Offers the Best Afterlife, the Secret Recipe for Gettin' Laid Lemonade
  • The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III: Multiple Universes, Mutual Assured Destruction, and the Meltdown of a Nuclear Family
  • Robin Ince's Bad Book Club: One Man's Quest To Uncover The Books That Time Forgot
  • Frank Skinner on the Road
  • Alien
  • The Oxford Companion to the Mind
  • Monty Python Speaks!
James Anthony Patrick "Jimmy" Carr (born 15 September 1972) is an English comedian and humourist, known for his deadpan delivery, dark humour, and use of edgy one-liners. He is also a writer, actor and presenter of radio and television. Carr moved to a career in comedy in 2000 and has become a successful British comedian. After becoming established as a stand-up comedian, Carr began to appear in a ...more
More about Jimmy Carr...

Share This Book

“People say, “Now you’ve given up booze at least you can remember what you did last night.” I say, “Yeah, nothing.” —Frank Skinner” 0 likes
More quotes…