Everyone knows that the easiest way to kill a joke is to try to explain it. But we here at Vox love nothing more than to explain, and when it comes to what makes us laugh, there’s a lot to dig into beyond punchlines and bad puns. We decided to spend this month exploring what it means to be funny: what kind of power humor bestows or takes away, how it shapes and reflects who we are, and who gets to wield it in the first place.
We’ve got a (sometimes hilarious! definitely insightful!) lineup that ranges from a cover story on the scientific underpinnings of humor to a full-on taxonomy of millennial cringe, plus a look at the so-called humor gender gap and an examination of why neither the left nor the right is actually all that funny. Also, can jokes save a business? Can they save you?
Go on, dive in, have a laugh or two. Just remember: It’s important to take humor seriously, whether you LOL, LMAO, ROFL, or hehehe.
—Julia Rubin (Editorial Director, Culture & Features)
The very serious science of humor
How studying what tickles our funny bone can help explain who we are.
By Allie Volpe
Toward a unified theory of “millennial cringe”
Remember when “epic bacon” was the height of comedy?
By Rebecca Jennings
Is the right winning the comedy wars?
Why liberals and conservatives don’t get each other’s jokes.
By Constance Grady
Why do people still think women aren’t funny?
The world doesn’t make it easy for us to crack a joke.
By Aubrey Hirsch
Meme stocks and the limits of being in on the joke
Did meme status save GameStop and AMC, or did it turn them into zombies?
By Emily Stewart
When humor becomes armor
Comedian Ashley Ray on grief, theater camp, and learning to make herself laugh first.
By Ashley Ray
Editors: Melinda Fakuade, Meredith Haggerty, Alanna Okun, Lavanya Ramanathan, Julia Rubin
Copy editors: Kim Eggleston, Elizabeth Crane, Caitlin PenzeyMoog, Tanya Pai
Art direction: Dion Lee
Audience: Gabriela Fernandez, Shira Tarlo, Agnes Mazur, Mary Perkins
Production/project editors: Susannah Locke, Nathan Hall