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Norman Wisdom, who died on 4th October, was Charlie Chaplin’s favourite clown. His trademark pratfalls and contagious giggling as little guy Norman Pitkin spread mirth around the globe, particularly in Albania, where his were the only western movies to escape state censorship. Asked about his legacy, the man with the freedom of the city of Tirana remarked: “People will always find the sight of someone falling or spilling something funny.” He’s probably right, but why is that?

Ever since Aristotle (erroneously) pointed out that laughter is unique to humans, philosophers have struggled to understand humour. Most explanations have been lead…

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