The paramount question answered in this absorbing collection of essays is: What's so funny about American humor, and why? What are American humor's characteristics? How have they evolved and displayed themselves? Which characteristics are distinctively, or even uniquely, American? Originally appearing as an issue of the American Quarterly, these essays take a close look at American humor from revolutionary times to the present day, and particularly focus on the neglected trends of the past fifty years. Looking at American comic figures as diverse--and even surprising--as Mark Twain and Richard Nixon, at various vehicles for American humor such as comic strips, radio and television, movies, and standup comedians, and at different genres of humor including political, ethnic, and feminist humor, this book brings a lively new perspective to the study of American culture.