Humour is a slippery and mercurial topic of study. The range of theoretical approaches is daunting. Disciplines as diverse as linguists, sociology, anthropology, psychology (in all of its many guises), communication, literary studies, and, even mathematics have contributed to the field. All of them, to greater or lesser degrees, lay claim to being at the centre of this funny universe.
What has occurred to me of late is that the study of humour may well be liken to the 'Wave Particle Duality' problem of physics. Light, and it seems all kinds of matter, can be viewed as being composed of particles or waves.
"As experiments were performed and evidence accumulated, the implications quickly became clear and alarming:
Light functions as both a particle and a wave, depending on how the experiment is conducted and when observations are made.The most common interpretation is that the wave function represents the probability of finding a given particle at a given point... Particles end up distributed according to the probability laws, and therefore exhibit the wave properties. In other words, the probability of a particle being in any location is a wave, but the actual physical appearance of that particle isn't".
http://physics.about.com/od/lightoptics/a/waveparticle.htm (accessed 13/01/2010)
At times humour can be studied in the the most 'particular' manner - the linguistic approach of Raskin, Attardo, et al. This provides a very specific view of the inner working of a script. However, at other times, humour is studied as an analog for (and of) other elements. Humour is a wave form that sweeps across our psychic, social and cultural landscape.
The only constant seems to be that we all recognise that humour exists and we have the ability to differentiate the humorous from the humourless.
I'll leave the last words to WC Fields - "The funniest thing about comedy is that you never know why people laugh. I know what makes them laugh but trying to get your hands on the why of it is like trying to pick an eel out of a tub of water". (There are those eels again.)
http://thinkexist.com/quotation/the_funniest_thing_about_comedy_is_that_you_never/331459.html (accessed 13/01/2010)