Monkey Business

The Constitution of the International Society for Humor Studies states (seemingly with tongue neatly cradled in cheek) that “the purpose of the Society shall be to promote, stimulate and encourage the interdisciplinary study of humour; to support . . . organizations having similar purposes.” The group counts linguists, biologists, and a variety of scholars among its ranks. The ISHS quarterly is published by the eminent Walter de Gruyter, also known as the publisher of the Prussian King Frederick the Great and of the Grimm Brothers. Is the ISHS trying to examine humor through the social sciences or to examine the social sciences through humor?

X. J. Kennedy masterly walks the same fine, ambiguous line of sobriety and humor. He opens “Grinder” with an invitational sales sign, drawing together the world of a burnt-out corporate working man and of street performers. A quick transaction brings Gina, a capuchin monkey, into Brod’s life. And so the corporate man looking for change finds himself collecting coins in a tin can on the street. Is Kennedy looking to tell a lost man’s story through humor, or is he using humor to tell us just how lost the man is?

—Bien Dobui

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