Identifies the directions and themes that will make up the field of American humour studies in the 21st century and offers undestanding of what is increasingly recognized as a defining medium of American democracy - humour. The study of American humour as a cultural denominator is changing from the limited review of southwestern vernacular writers leading up to Mark Twain into a broad field with feminist, popular-cultural, ethnic and international components. Tracing American life through its comic artifacts results in an incredibly colourful patchwork quilt of cultural dynamism, a dynamic in no way decreasing as television challenges print media and as issues of egalitarian ethics bring about transformations in the role of women, ethnic standing, criminal justice and sexual mores. Multicultural and diverse in terms of modern and classic figures, these essays deal with subjects ranging from Beavis and Butt-head and Richard Pryor to Edith Wharton and Edgar Allan Poe, from ""old maids"" and ""wily widders"" to the ""comic Texan"" and ""funny Republican"". ""American Humour"", this anthology places American humour in social and historic context and anticipates further developments in the field.