Lisa Goldstein Graham, Ph.D. is a 2010 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dissertation Committee

  • Jon Wergin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Elizabeth Holloway, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Elaine Gale, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Cecily Cooper, Ph.D., External Reader


humor, humor in the workplace, interpersonal process recall, IPR, thematic analysis, business meetings

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The purpose of this study is to explore the experience of the individual who spontaneously produces humor during conversation. Although a broad humor literature exists, very little research addresses the experience of the spontaneous humor producer. This study represents an early step toward filling this gap in the literature. I gathered data by videotaping organizational meetings and conducting subsequent Interpersonal Process Recall (IPR) interviews with individuals who produced humor during the course of the meetings. I analyzed data from the IPR interviews using an emergent thematic analysis. Most humor producers in this sample were consciously aware of specific external cues, thoughts, and feelings when they produced humor. Sometimes, participants were aware of what they hoped to accomplish by interjecting humor and, at other times, they recalled their intentions only upon reflection. Producers’ tacit assumptions, or underlying beliefs about humor and/or about themselves, as well as certain aspects of the context affected their humor production as well. The study also uncovered three themes about the experience of humor production. First, humor producers were fully engaged in the dynamics of the current interaction when they contributed humor. Second, many humor producers reported having a sense of other group members’ internal experiences. Third, participants’ roles within the group often led to different experiences of humor production. Leaders tended to initiate humor in hopes of influencing others and/or creating change. Team members who did not hold formal positions of leadership were especially tuned into their managers’ actions, thoughts, and feelings. This study adds meaningfully to the humor literature, especially to research on humor functions, tacit knowledge, humor and social sensitivity, and humor and hierarchical relationships. The results of this study also have important implications for leadership. In addition, I propose a connection between this study’s findings and research on improvisation. The electronic version of this dissertation is accessible at the OhioLINK ETD Center,