The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner attempts to do what many others have before: dissect jokes and thus explain how humor works. The main theory, provided by McGraw, who is the director of the Humor Research Lab at the University of Colorado, is called the benign-violation theory.
Jokes, once dissected, stop being funny. So without having read the book, it's impossible for us to weigh in with an opinion. Instead, we read Joel Epstein ruminations on the idea in his article for Commentary magazine, "Notes On What's So Damn Funny."
Epstein includes many jokes in his piece, so at the very least, you'll get some laughs. But seriously, read his article. And if you like it, try McGraw and Warner's book.
Thanks, you've been great! G'night!
[Thanks once more to Arts & Letters Daily]