This old school Fisher Price telephone toy - a gift from Eleanor's godfather - came in the mail for Eleanor a couple days ago. Do you remember this toy? I do. You pull it with a string and it rolls along behind you, wagging its eyes up and down. When she opened it, Eleanor immediately deemed this toy "funny." What's funny versus what is not funny is a set of binaries she has enjoyed exploring lately. Sometimes she'll look up at me or her Ma and say, "Is (insert phenomenon here) funny?" It's an important question that seems to belie some heavy ontological sorting.
Freud suggested early on that humor can be a defense mechanism against unpleasant things rambling around the psyche. He also said that it can be a pure expression of the human will to enjoy delight and discharge anxiety. Theories along these lines abound, but what I like the most about humor is that it can be thoroughly subjective and infectious, as when Eleanor points to a fork on the kitchen floor and says "Fork! What are you doing?! Fork is funny!" And soon Janelle and I are laughing along with her, momentarily drawn into the kid world of magical and goofing flatware.