Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor
Isaac Asimov was one of the most prolific writers in the past century, known for his many science fiction and non-fiction works. His 'guide' series is one of his scholarly contributions to the world's understanding of literature. For instance, Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare and Asimov's Guide to the Bible, both prominent in this series, are reliable and easily understood guides which are still used in college level courses on both subjects.
Along with these serious works, he also maintains a human quality; one which he lets run free in Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor and its sequel, Asimov Laughs Again. In these two books, he tells a broad variety of jokes—from puns to ethnic, from limericks to anecdotes. The latter book, it may be noted, is replete with sexually-explicit humor, and is consequently best reserved for adult audiences.
What makes these books surpass many of their contemporaries is that he explains what is funny to the jokes, and gives tips on how to tell them. He talks about the effect of the jokes on different audiences, and the personal touches that you can add to make the joke your own.
Treasury of Humor is unique in that in addition to being a working joke book, it is a treatise on the theory of humor, propounding Asimov's theory that the essence of humor is an abrupt, jarring change in emphasis and/or point of view, moving from the crucial to the trivial, and/or from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Asimov also wrote a short story, Jokester, in which a character wonders where the jokes come from, since so many people say "I heard a good one", but never "I invented a good one". His investigation will lead him to think that jokes are of alien origin and designed to study the psychology of earthlings.
- Treasury of Humor: A Lifetime Collection of Favorite Jokes, Anecdotes, and Limericks with Copious Notes on How to Tell Them and Why
- 1992, Asimov Laughs Again: More Than 700 Jokes, Limericks, and Anecdotes, Harper Paperbacks 1993 reprint (paperback) ISBN 0-06-092448-9