The Set-Up

  • Barbara Plester


The anatomy of a joke includes ‘the set up’ the execution, the punch line and hopefully laughter and applause to conclude (Norrick, Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 14(3), 255 274, 2001). Using these joke stages in the structure of the book, this introductory chapter can be considered the ‘set-up’ as it offers definitions and conceptions of humour and highlights the complexity of understanding workplace humour. Challenges in researching humour are identified and discussed and the ethnographic approach used in all of my research is emphasized and justified. The chapter concludes by offering the overall framework for the book by outlining the objectives and content of each chapter.


Humour The four humours Laughter Fun Play Context 


  1. Alvesson, M. (2011). Interpreting interviews. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alvesson, M., & Skolberg, K. (2000). Reflexive methodology. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  3. Apte, M. L. (1985). Humor and laughter: An anthropological approach. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Arikha, N. (2008). Just life in a nutshell: Humours as common sense. The Philosophical Forum, 39(3), 303–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berger, P. L. (1997). Redeeming laughter: The comic dimension of human experience. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bergson, H. (1911). Laughter. An essay on the meaning of the comic (C. Brereton & F. Rothwell, Trans. 1935 ed.). London: MacMillan & Co.Google Scholar
  7. Billig, M. (2005a). Violent racist jokes. In S. Lockyer & M. Pickering (Eds.), Beyond a joke (pp. 27–46). Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  8. Billig, M. (2005b). Laughter and ridicule. Towards a social critique of humour. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  9. Bolton, S. C., & Houlihan, M. (2009). Are we having fun yet? A consideration of workplace fun and engagement. Employee Relations, 31(6), 556–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Butler, N. (2015). Joking aside: Theorizing laughter in organizations’. Culture and Organization, 21(1), 42–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Byrne, D. (1956). The relationship between humor and the expression of hostility. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 53, 84–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chapman, A. J., & Foot, H. C. (Eds.). (1976). Humour and laughter: Theory, research and applications. London: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  13. Clark, L. A., & Watson, D. (2008). Temperament: An organizing paradigm for trait psychology. In J. P. Oliver, R. W. Robins, & L. A. Pervin (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (3rd ed., pp. 265–286). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  14. Collins, W., & Sons. (2003). Collins English Dictionary (6th ed.). Glasgow: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  15. Collinson, D. (1988). ‘Engineering humour’: Joking and conflict in shop-floor relations. Organization Studies, 9, 181–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Collinson, D. L. (1992). Managing the shopfloor: Subjectivity, masculinity and workplace culture. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Collinson, D. L. (2002). Managing humour. Journal of Management Studies, 39(3), 269–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Costea, B., Crump, N., & Holm, J. (2005). Dionysus at work? The ethos of play and the ethos of management. Culture and Organization, 11(2), 139–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Critchley, S. (2002). On humour. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  20. Critchley, S. (2007). Humour as practically enacted theory, or, why critics should tell more jokes. In R. Westwood & C. Rhodes (Eds.), Humour, work and organization (pp. 17–32). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. De Waal, F. B. M. (2009). Darwin’s last laugh. Nature, 460(175). doi: 10.1038/460175a.Google Scholar
  22. Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). The Sage handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  23. Eastman, M. (1936). Enjoyment of laughter. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  24. Fleming, P. (2005). Worker’s playtime? Boundaries and cynicism in a ‘Culture of fun’ program. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 41(3), 285–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Freud, S. (1905). Jokes and their relation to the unconscious (A. Richards, Trans. 1991). London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  26. Godkewitsch, M. (1976). Physiological and verbal indices of arousal in rated humour. In A. J. Chapman & H. C. Foot (Eds.), Humour and laughter: Theory, research and applications, 117138. London: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  27. Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1989). Fourth generation evaluation. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  28. Hay, J. (1994). Jocular abuse patterns in mixed-group interaction. Wellington Working Papers in Linguistics, 6, 26–55.Google Scholar
  29. Hay, J. (2000). Functions of humor in the conversations of men and women. Journal of Pragmatics, 32(6), 709–742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hobbes, T. (1640). Hobbes tripos in three discourses: Human nature. In W. S. Molesworth (Ed.), The English works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury. Vol. IV (183–945). London: John Bohn.Google Scholar
  31. Holmes, J., & Marra, M. (2002). Having a laugh at work: How humour contributes to workplace culture. Journal of Pragmatics, 34(12), 1683–1710.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Holmes, J., & Stubbe, M. (2003). Power and politeness in the workplace: A sociolinguistic analysis of talk at work. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  33. Hopfl, H. (2007). Humour and violation. In R. Westwood & C. Rhodes (Eds.), Humour, work and organization (pp. 33–44). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Huizinga, J. (1949). Homo ludens. A study of the play-element in culture. London: Routledge & Keegan Paul.Google Scholar
  35. Karl, K., & Peluchette, J. (2006). Does workplace fun buffer the impact of emotional exhaustion on job dissatisfaction? A study of health care workers. Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management, 7(2), 128–141.Google Scholar
  36. Kivy, P. (2003). Jokes are a laughing matter. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 61(1), 515.Google Scholar
  37. Kunda, G. (1992). Engineering culture: Control and commitment in a high-tech corporation. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Lamm, E., & Meeks, M. D. (2009). Workplace fun: The moderating effects of generational differences. Employee Relations, 31(6), 613–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Levine, J., & Abelson, R. P. (1959). Humor as a disturbing stimulus. Journal of General Psychology, 60, 191–200.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Linstead, S. (1985). Jokers wild: The importance of humour in the maintenance of organizational culture. Sociological Review, 13(3), 741–767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Martin, R. A. (2007). The psychology of humor. An integrative approach. Burlington, MA: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  42. Martin, R. A., & Kuiper, N. A. (1999). Daily occurrence of laughter: Relationships with age, gender, and Type A personality. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 12(4), 355–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McGhee, P. E. (1979). Humour. Its origin and development. San Francisco: Freeman and Co.Google Scholar
  44. Mulkay, M. (1988). On humour. Its nature and place in modern society. Oxford: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  45. Norrick, N. R. (2001). On the conversational performance of narrative jokes: Toward an account of timing. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 14(3), 255–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Nwokah, E. E., Hsu, H.-C., Dobrowolska, O., & Fogel, A. (1994). The development of laughter in mother-infant communication: Timing parameters and temporal sequences. Infant Behavior & Development, 17(1), 23–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. O’Connell, W. E. (1960). The adaptive functions of wit and humor. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 79(2), 183–187.Google Scholar
  48. Plester, B. A. (2009). Crossing the line: Boundaries of workplace humour and fun. Employee Relations, 31(6), 584–599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Plester, B. A., Cooper-Thomas, H., & Winquist, J. (2015). The fun paradox. Employee Relations, 37(1), 380–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pullen, A., & Rhodes, C. (2013). Parody, subversion and the politics of gender at work: The case of Futurama’s ‘Raging Bender’. Organization, 20(4), 512–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. (1940). On joking relationships. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 13(3), 195–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Raskin, V. (1985). Semantic mechanisms of humor. Dordrecht: Reidel.Google Scholar
  53. Redlich, F. C., Levine, J., & Sohler, T. P. (1951). A mirth response test: Preliminary report on a psychodiagnostic technique utilizing dynamics of humor. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 21, 717–734.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Romero, E. J., & Cruthirds, K. W. (2006). The use of humor in the workplace. Academy of Management Perspectives, 20(2), 58–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Romero, E. J., & Pescosolido, A. (2008). Humor and group effectiveness. Human Relations, 61(3), 395–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Ruch, W., & Hehl, F. J. (1987). Personal values as facilitating and inhibiting factors in the appreciation of humor content. Journal of Social Behavior & Personality, 2(4), 453–472.Google Scholar
  57. Sutton-Smith, B. (1997). The ambiguity of play. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Tews, M. J., Michel, J. W., & Bartlett, A. (2012). The fundamental role of workplace fun in applicant attraction. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 19(1), 105–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Thanem, T. (2006). Living on the edge: Towards a monstrous organization theory. Organization, 13(2), 163–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Thanem, T. (2011). The monstrous organization. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Tracy, S. J., Myers, K. K., & Scott, W. (2006). Cracking jokes and crafting selves: Sensemaking and identity management among human service workers. Communication Monographs, 73(3), 283–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Westwood, R., & Johnston, A. (2012). Reclaiming authentic selves: Control, resistive humour and identity work in the office. Organization, 19(6), 787–808.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Westwood, R., & Rhodes, C. (Eds.). (2007). Humour, work and organization. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  64. Zijderveld, A. (1983). The sociology of humour and laughter – An outstanding debt. Current Sociology, 31(3), 1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Plester
    • 1
  1. 1.Management & International BusinessUniversity of Auckland Business SchoolAucklandNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations