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Play and Humor

  • By: Benjamin Shepard
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

Play is difficult to define, as it has multiple meanings. It can be useful to think of it as a spirit that encompasses theatrical presentation as improvisation, motion, and an ethos of action. “It is a mood, an activity, an eruption, of liberty,” Richard Schechner (2002, p. 79) explains. But it is also paradoxical. Sometimes, play takes the shape of a formal commercial or competitive activity one participates in or enjoys; examples include a tennis match at the U.S. Open or an off-Broadway show. In its less formal incarnations, play can involve a pick-up soccer game in the park, or occur at social gatherings, in playgrounds, sidewalks, or streets. Yet, from time to time, it departs from the mundane, and through the use of subversive ...

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