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Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  770 ratings  ·  151 reviews
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year

From the brilliantly witty and exuberant New York Times bestselling author Ken Jennings, a history of humor—from fart jokes on clay Sumerian tablets all the way up to the latest Twitter gags and Facebook memes—that tells the story of how comedy came to rule the modern world.

For millennia of human history, the future belonged to the st
...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 29th 2018 by Scribner (first published May 19th 2018)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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Mehrsa
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. The history of comedy is interesting, but what I was most struck by was his diagnoses of what the proliferation and invasion of comedy into every aspect of life has wrought and could happen in the future. Though sometimes he sounds like a grumpy old man talking about kids these days, I think his concerns are serious. What can we take seriously any more? What has the speed and intensification of our processing of news and turning it into comedy ...more
Bandit
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember reading Ken Jennings’ charming Brainiac and thinking this guy should write more books. And right after that Planet Funny showed up on Netgalley. What perfect timing. That’s actually one of the things discussed in this book. So anyway, this rainy day was spent in company of Ken Jennings, the nerd superhero of Jeopardy fame, and his musings on the nature of funny. While mainly known for being a trivia buff extraordinaire, following his legendary time on Jeopardy the man has become somet ...more
B Schrodinger
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Ken could tell me about the 1970's parachute silk weaving process and I'd find it interesting.

But he talks about comedy, something we are all interested in. In an age when comedy is so widespread, so easily available and we are inundated with it constantly, what is it's value? Why do we laugh and when should we laugh?

While he is no expert, Ken can research the hell out of anything and tell you about it in an amusing and informative way. If you are a fan of the workings of comedy, take a look at
...more
Liz Overberg
Jul 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
As usual, Ken Jennings offers a witty and extremely well researched take on an interesting topic. This time he explores the history of comedy in culture and examines how and why humor was integrated into politics, sports, the workplace, the news, etc. etc. etc.

This was a bit of a slog to get through, and probably could have used a few more jokes, anecdotes, and case studies to keep me turning the pages, but nevertheless it's a fairly engaging (but not laugh-out-loud funny) analysis of the evolut
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Peter Fuller
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5/5 stars. As a direct result of reading this book, I didn’t put any jokes into a group text invitation to a Christmas Party. My wife was convinced that I’d had an aneurysm.

How does the book work without violating the “Dissecting humor is stilted and boring” rule of thumb? Jennings just doesn’t try to be funny while he’s dissecting humor (don’t worry, his humor still leaks through all over. I laughed out loud plenty of times). I came into this book expecting a ton of witty one-liners from my
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Margaret Sankey
Jan 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Jennings examines the evolution of humor, including some medieval jokes I did not already have, but things really take off when he gets into how language and cultural limits keep superstar comedic actors to their home countries, how humor got into 1950s advertising, the "Between Two Ferns" Obamacare bump, misguided corporate jollying of employees, the decline of duo humor as the straight man character fell by the wayside, meta-humor, the cycles of sitcoms, Weird Al, how comedians lose touch and ...more
Art
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book captures the comic mood of the moment, writes Ken Jennings, the smart game-show contestant who now writes for a living. As part of our current moment, most millennials say that their sense of humor defines them, not music as for earlier generations. Everyone’s a comic now, which devalues it. Not so long ago, few people could make others laugh.

A surprisingly thoughtful and engaging book about humor and comedy. Fun, funny and smart about the smarty pants and smart-alecks we all know who
...more
Liesl
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, humor, non-fiction
An academic yet entertaining examination of comedy in today's culture. The first two chapters are a little rough, especially the 2+ pages where Jennings lists things he thinks are funny off the top of his head, but after that the book takes off and gets into a nice groove. I was astounded to discover how much the ratio of jokes per minute on a standard sitcom has changed through time, that potential TV writers can be discovered via tweets on Twitter, and the manner in which comedy can help expla ...more
Vince Snow
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020books
I finished the book on Saturday and on Sunday evening I watched on netflix the Social Dilemma. I thought they paired quite nicely. Both discuss the idea of too much of a good thing.

Lots of the book was devoted to the history of humor, which was interesting to me, but I don't listen to a whole ton of stand up. I found it much more interesting when he compared the number of jokes told in older sitcoms to The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

He does not make a point that comedy is bad and should be done
...more
Rebecca
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Witty and thought-provoking. Would recommend to others.
Abtin
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
A sobering look at how comedy has taken over every aspect of our society. Not to say this is a dry or humorless book. Jennings is like many of us a "comedy-nerd" and has a great sense of humor that shows in his writing. He does a nice job of praising the significant role comedy has played in our development as a species and our social lives, while also lamenting how we may be suffering from too much of a good thing.

We are inundated with "funny" to the point that nothing is funny. Comedy has bec
...more
Dkettmann
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was great, although it did a bit of an ambush to me. Being used to the lighter, previous works of Mr Kennings, I expected this to be an expertly curated collection of funny stuff as Ken was wont to do, sui generis. This book is damn near academic -- yet, hilarious and everything I had hoped it would be. Just in a different format. This book has the light moments I came seeking, but then clubs you into learning how the gears attempt to mesh, and how they don't sometimes.

Ken touches on a
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Kirk Hanley
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a bit different than I thought it would be, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Ken Jennings is obviously a bonafide comedy nerd and hearing him discuss various comedy bits, TV shows, movies, and more is great. But this book goes a lot deeper than that, examining whether we are amusing ourselves to death. His premise is that we may have reached "peak funny" where literally everything - our politics, conversation, social media - has become one big joke and is, perhaps, unsustainable at its ...more
Morgan
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs
The best book about comedy I've ever read.
Jenny
Apr 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Three is funny only because it’s the shortest list that can set up a pattern and then break it with a surprising final item. A set of two is just a pair; there’s no rhythm. A set of four works in theory, but it feels cluttered, because the audience can sense that it’s one more example than you actually needed."

For a book about comedy, this wasn't as funny as I expected (and not as funny as I remember Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks being. However, Jennings raises a lo
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Evan Crane
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
'we're learning to laugh at problems instead of solving them'

The Greek philosopher Theophrastus related the strange story of Tiryntha, the Peloponnesian city where Hercules once lived. The Tirynthians were addicted to laughter. They were amused by everything, and it was ruining their lives and endangering the city. They sent to the oracle at Delphi to see what could be done, and were instructed to sacrifice a bull to Poseidon and throw it into the sea without laughing. The Tirythians, determined
...more
McKenna
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

I thought this was quite funny and interesting. Ken Jennings explores our joke-obsessed culture, the history of comedy, and how it all has good/bad effects. I’m not a comedy nerd, so a lot of the references went over my head, but I thought it was entertaining and well-researched. It made me want to check out his other books. (Heads up, he does share anecdotes from a sex ed class and stuff like that.)
Rebecca
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent review of the political and sociological implications of comedy- used as weapon, to divide, to bring together- an ever evolving sensibility. Comedy mutates to suit the culture- novelty, speed, absurdidty and immediate reactions are required in this non stop feedback culture. Increase irony- so much comedy in our culture that everyone has internalized the tropes and tones - Presidential
Debates anyone. Enlightening.
Charlotte
Feb 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Ken Jennings (yes the Jeopardy guy) even talks about his own history with comedy. From watching Mystery Science 3000 to how social media (Twitter) has changed the way people "get" their comedy. Planet Funny was much more cerebral than I thought it would be. And as interesting as it was, it was a little dry in some places. But that didn't stop us from listening to the whole thing. Ken Jennings and I are close enough in age, that we share a lot of the same nostalgia. And that made it really fun.

ht
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Vanessa
Aug 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Ok. I liked alot of this book. I just think I wasn't ready for this detailed a look into comedy. There were many funny parts and several sad areas of just how much work people will do to be funny.
Since Ken Jennings is a bit of a jokester/ laughs at himself I thought he liked humor. He still likes humor and uses humor often, however, he realizes sometimes people are more concerned with humor than with communication.
H
Sep 03, 2018 rated it liked it
This was okay and I recognized faaaaar too many tweets but it was too long! I love you KJ, please take over Jeopardy when Alex retires
Gerald Matzke
Jul 09, 2018 rated it liked it
This looked like it might be a fun look at humor but after getting about half way through I found it hard to continue because it was too analytical. Jennings even makes the point that humor loses its ability to amuse when it is over analyzed and then he continues to do just that. I got the book from the library and didn’t finish it before the due date. I wasn’t interested enough to want to renew it. The only amusing thing I enjoyed was the section on the history of Mystery Science Theater 3000 a ...more
Luke Burrage
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Solid book... but maybe too funny? ;)
Vikram Nijhawan
Feb 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Insightful, cogent, and -- in its own quaint way, humurous -- this book about the dissection of comedy furthet proves Jennings' academic and writing merits.
El_kiablo
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Planet Funny covers two interrelated but nonetheless distinct topics: it is a history of modern comedy that explores how that specific type of media has evolved over the last few decades, and it is also an intellectual exploration of the unintentional personal / sociological side effects that come from living in an increasingly media-dense world (with a specific focus on comedy media.)

The way that both topics are similar is obvious: they are both about the way our joke culture / our relationship
...more
Ana
A fun read about the evolution of American humor, but I wish it were more nuanced. Maybe I needed a more academic book. Still worth the read.
Stefanie
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
It is weird to me that I ultimately found my way to this book because I follow Ken Jennings on twitter, because he is hilarious, but he only ever surfaced on twitter because of his Jeopardy! run. Jennings himself comments on this career trajectory, something that really only feels possible at this particular point in human history. Strange origins notwithstanding, the topic of this book appealed to me, and I was excited to pick it up from the library. (By 'pick it up' I mean download it from Chi ...more
Laura
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Title: Planet Funny: How Comedy Took Over Our Culture
Author: Ken Jennings
Read by: Ken Jennings
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: Approximately 9 hours and 11 minutes
Source: Review Copy from Simon & Schuster. Thank-you!

I need more humor in my life, and I was very happy to review Planet Funny by Ken Jennings. In this non-fiction work, Jennings chronicles the history of humor and how it has changed over time. I found it to be both enlightening and funny.

Ken Jennings was born in 1974 and is only fo
...more
Darcy McLaughlin
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you've read any of his past books or listen to his podcast Omnibus, you'll know that you're in for a breadth of topics that jump from one to the next. For some this might be a bit jarring, maybe you wanted another 10 pages about All in the Family, but I think it's an overall positive for the book. As Ken explains early on dissecting comedy can become increasingly boring, even for the self professed comedy nerds among us.

A large part of his book focuses on the current prevalence of comedy in s
...more
Azriel Odin
Oct 18, 2018 rated it liked it
The book was an interesting premise while it lasted but at times a slog to get through. The idea that humor doesn't have a place in certain situations like say flight safety is something that makes perfect sense, and the description of humor history and how we have reached a point where everyone is "funny" and everything needs to have a layer of irony to it is thought provoking in a way reminding us that there are times when we should not just inject laughs everywhere. The pop-culture references ...more
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Kenneth Wayne Jennings III (born May 23, 1974) holds the record for the longest winning streak on the U.S. syndicated game show Jeopardy! Jennings won 74 games before he was defeated by challenger Nancy Zerg on his 75th appearance. His total earnings on Jeopardy! are US$3,022,700 ($2,520,700 in winnings, a $2,000 consolation prize on his 75th appearance, and $500,000 in the Jeopardy! Ultimate Tour ...more

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