Comedy rescues difficult situations. It helps dig people out of holes and help them deal with suffering. As Nietzsche has proclaimed: ‘Perhaps I know best why man alone laughs. He alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.’ ‘Beyond a joke’ questions whether laughter occurs most often in melancholy people and considers the wide range of shapes that responses to suffering take. The most developed theory of how and why laughter covers seriousness comes from Freud. A joke, he believes, like a dream, is a surreptitious reclaiming of possibilities for enjoyment, a disguised way of relieving pain caused by repressing forbidden desires.