“Can Laughter Make the World a Better Place?” Tucker explores the question in new book

Associate Professor of Art Shawn Tucker released his fourth book on April 4.

After 12 years of teaching his course “Laughter and the Humanities,” Associate Professor of Art Shawn Tucker wanted to translate his findings into a book that a general audience could enjoy.

Shawn Tucker, associate professor of art

“I really credit the inspiration behind this book to my classes,” said Tucker. “I am truly so grateful to be at Elon. I have gotten so much interaction and feedback from my students that really made this whole process worth it that much more.”

Can Laughter Make the World a Better Place?” was published on April 2, 2022. The work explores the harm and benefit that laughter can bring into the world and cites television shows such as “Malcolm in the Middle,” and “M*A*S*H,” insights by neuroscientists, philosophers, painters, social and political scientists, and ideas from people like C. S. Lewis, Sigmund Freud, Brene Brown, Tiffany Haddish, and Hannah Gadsby.

One of Tucker’s favorite chapters was centered around an episode of “Malcolm in the Middle” when the characters visited the infamous Burning Man festival.

“This chapter got a lot into the ethics of laughter, and the importance of dark humor,” said Tucker. “It’s not always bad, but there really is a time and a place for that kind of humor.”

The book is divided into three sections that attempt to answer the titular question; “No,” “Maybe,” and “Yes.” The “No” section explores the ethics and negative effects of laughter, such as laughing at the expense of others or laughing at inappropriate times. The “Maybe” section tackles the ambiguity of laughter, and the “Yes” section demonstrates the warmth, activism, and healing that laughter can bring.

This is Tucker’s fourth published book. His first book, “The Virtues and Vices in the Arts: A Sourcebook,” explored the appearance of the seven deadly sins in sources throughout history. His second scholarly book, “Pride and Humility: A New Interdisciplinary Analysis” presented an innovative examination of the nature of pride and humility. Tucker’s third book “Humility: A Practical Approach,” connected themes of humility, humor, and humiliation. “Can Laughter Make the World a Better Place?” was Tucker’s first publication that was directed toward a general audience. Tucker credits his writing inspiration to Lawrence Wright, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who visited Elon in 2018.

“I didn’t realize until I started writing this book how different it was to write for a general audience as opposed to writing for scholars,” said Tucker. “Wright gave me so much insight into how to write for a general audience and that was such a beneficial lecture.”

While the book does not definitively answer the titular question, Tucker provides his audiences with a variety of solutions that they can take moving forward to answer the question for themselves. “I really want people to see that there is real variety in laughter,” Tucker said.