"Stop Me If You've Heard This is the first book to trace the evolution of the joke all the way from the stand-up comics of ancient Athens to the comedy-club Seinfelds of today. Cropping up en route are such unforgettable figures as Poggio, a Renaissance papal secretary and sexual adventurer who set up a joke factory in the Vatican, and Gershon Legman, the FBI-hounded psychoanalyst of dirty jokes who invented the slogan "Make Love Not War.""
"After exploring humor's history in part one, the irreducible Jim Holt delves into philosophy in part two. Jewish jokes; Wall Street jokes; jokes about lesbians and violists, rednecks and atheists, bulimics and politicians; jokes that you missed if you didn't go to a Catholic girls' school; jokes about language and logic itself - all become fodder for the grand theories of Aristotle, Kant, Freud, and Wittgenstein. Among the mysteries examined is why the cerebral pleasure of a joke should issue in a spasmodic discharge of nervous energy through the facial and respiratory muscles - that is, in laughter."--Jacket.