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How laughter shapes contemporary Japanese media

Table of contents

Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
List of Japanese Television Networks and Abbreviations
Chapter 1: Outside the Frame
Chapter 2: The Rhythm of Laughter                                                                                   
Chapter 3: The Way We Laugh Now
Chapter 4: A Documentary of Laughter
Chapter 5: Yoshimoto, One Hit Wonders, and the Future of Japanese Comedy               
Conclusion: The last laugh?


From broadcast to social media, comedy plays a prominent role in Japan’s cultural landscape and political landscape. The Time of Laughter explores how comedy grew out of the early days of television to become a central force in shaping Japanese media over the past half-century. Comedy and its impact, David Humphrey argues, established a “time of laughter” in the media of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries in Japan. Through masterful interrogation of Japanese televisual archives and media discourse, Humphrey demonstrates that the unique temporality of laughter has had a profound role in the cultural atmosphere of Japan’s recent past. Laughter both complemented and absorbed the profound tensions and contradictions that emerged in Japanese television. Joyous and cacophonous, reaffirming and subverting, laughter simultaneously alienated and unified viewers. Through its exploration of the influence of comedy and the culture of laughter, The Time of Laughter presents a vibrant new take on Japan’s recent media history.

David Humphrey is Assistant Professor of Japanese and Global Studies at Michigan State University.

"The Time of Laughter is a book that will delight scholars of comedy and humor with both its theoretical rigor and abundant examples. By the end of the book, most readers will come away convinced that it is impossible to study Japanese television, or even its broader media culture, without understanding how it has been informed and shaped by comedy." 

- Film Quarterly

Listen: Author interview on New Books Network | August 15, 2023