No Joke — Why Even Tragedy Gets a Laugh

When comedian Tig Notaro found out she had breast cancer, she incorporated the grim news into her stand-up routine—and got quite a few laughs from the audience. Notaro and neuroscientist Robert Provine discuss the origins of laughter, what separates the amusing from the truly funny, and why even tragedy sometimes gets a laugh.

Segment Guests

Tig Notaro

Tig Notaro is a writer and comedian based in New York, New York.

Robert Provine

Robert Provine is the author of Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping, and Beyond (Belknap Press, 2012) and a neuroscientist and professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in Baltimore, Maryland.

Meet the Producer

About Christopher Intagliata

Christopher Intagliata was Science Friday’s senior producer. He once served as a prop in an optical illusion and speaks passable Ira Flatowese.