Humour, Art and the Brain 2004

A One-day Festival exploring Humour through Art and Science

Theatre Royal Winchester
30th October 2004

We learn to laugh before we can speak. It is one of the earliest and most profound of human responses to the world. Yet little is widely known about the act of  laughing, the neuroscience of humour, the origins of comedy or the cultural meaning of jokes. Not since 1976 has an event in the UK attempted to stage a conference-style festival on what exactly makes humans laugh.

In the second Art and Mind event in Winchester, with the help of psychologists, neuroscientists, sociologists and artists (all chosen for their outstanding comedic performances) together with an award-winning comedian, we will explore the act of laughing and the role of the brain, humour across cultures and through art, and analyse the power of the pun and the role of contemporary humour. We end the day with an award winning show from the young British comedian Alex Horne, hot from the Edinburgh Fringe, exploring humour through a scientifically determined laughter scale.

We promise a unique day of informed hilarity, exploring the origins, culture and meaning of humour.

Art and Mind


The day’s events will be presented by comedian and writer Mervyn Stutter

Session One – Why humour?

11.00-11.45  Laughter before Language – a Universal Response?
Communicating Humour by Psychologist Prof Richard Wiseman and artist Nicola Green
Plus: Creating a Comic – Richard Wiseman will introduce the competition winner of the Unfunniest Person in Winchester. By 7.45pm he will have trained him/her to become a perfect comic. It’s all in the timing.

12.00-12.45   Did We Laugh to Survive? Do Animals Laugh?
Laughter and the Brain by neuroscientist Dr Harry Witchel

Session Two – Humour in Culture

2.00-2.45  Life’s a Laugh and Death’s a Joke – Aristotle to Monty Python

Toward an Aesthetic Theory of Humour by Psychologist and Humour Consultant Dr Eduardo Jauregui

3.45-4.30 Humour as heresy – laughter as taboo

Ethnic humour by Sociologist Professor Christie Davies.

Session Three – Contemporary Humour

4.30-5.15  Do Androids Laugh? Is Humour Wired or Learned?
Humour and Artificial Intelligence by AI expert Dr Kim Binsted

5.30-6.30 From Satire to Sitcom – What Makes Us Laugh Now?
Round table discussion with the day- presenters together with John Lloyd (creator of Not the Nine O’clock News and more), Chaired by Richard Wiseman.  PLUS Q&A.

Evening Performance

7.45 Creating a Comic – final performance by the Unfunniest Person in Winchester.

8.00-9.15  Making Fish Laugh
Comedy theatre based on the science of humour. By award-winning Perrier-nominated young British comedian Alex Horne.

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