Earlier this month we published Tourism and Humour by Philip L. Pearce and Anja Pabel. We asked them a few questions to find out more about the background to the book.
What inspired you to study tourism and humour?
Anja: My primary PhD supervisor, Prof Philip Pearce aka “Prof”, pointed me into the direction of tourism and humour. During a pre-PhD meeting, I remember quite clearly that we talked about three potential PhD topics: social media use in tourism, poverty alleviation and tourism and humour in tourism. When I heard about the humour topic, my alarm bells went ringing: “Ding ding ding, this is so going to be my topic!” The rest is already history.
Philip: Erik Cohen and I discussed humour at the 2007 Academy of Tourism conference and at a number of subsequent meetings in Thailand. I then systematically explored some well-known situations in an early Annals of Tourism Research paper. I do recognise nationality differences, but the way humour enlivens many human interactions has always been of interest to me and its role in tourism interactions was not formally appreciated. The choice of the topic is consistent with identifying key facets of tourist behaviour which have defined some of our earlier work at James Cook University
What insights have you gained from writing the book?
Anja: The research for the PhD and the book made me realise just what a multifaceted phenomenon humour actually is. It is something so nebulous because it is a personal and subjective experience. The research shows that tour guides who are successful in using humour during tourism experiences contribute to the tourists’ comfort, connection and concentration levels. Overall it can be said that humour may not apply to all tourism settings but this research has shown that is it likely to contribute to making many tourists’ experiences more enjoyable.
Philip: The breadth and depth of scholarship relating to humour has now given me the ability to identify common humour styles and patterns in tourism humour. For example, I recently visited the United Kingdom and witnessed many of the identical techniques identified in tourist–guide humour in our chapters. Guides who gently mock their audience and interpreters who build their stories with humour and turn the humour against themselves can be richly entertaining for many in the audience. But it is not just about guides. Humorous promotion and humorous post travel storytelling are very important links in the humour-tourism nexus.
How did the two of you come to collaborate on this book?
Anja: Prof was my PhD supervisor and having some of my PhD findings published in a book was a great opportunity. I enjoyed working on this book with Prof and the Channel View Publications team.
Philip: From my interest and from Anja’s PhD there seemed to be much to say in a book. Importantly, co-writing with a consistently happy, fun seeking but high quality graduate student with supportive Channel View staff was always going to be a great choice of working colleagues and friends.
What’s the favourite place that you’ve travelled to in the course of your research?
Anja: To collect data for the PhD and ultimately the book, I travelled to some of my favourite places in Far North Queensland such as the Atherton Tablelands and Cape Tribulation. It was very insightful to see tour guides using humour to engage with tourists during different tourism activities and to observe what effect it had on the tourists’ experience.
Philip: My first studies of humour in Hawaii and New Zealand captured my appreciation of how good humour use adds to beautiful environments and fun activities. These great places were made better for tourists by very entertaining, humorous, culture presenters and fun loving, adventure tourism staff.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing books?
Anja: I enjoy travelling, walking my dog, paddle boarding and reading.
Philip: Meeting new people overseas, travelling, looking after my three dogs and enjoying watching and, if possible, participating in sport.
What is the most humorous experience you’ve had as a tourist?
Anja: I remember a funny situation in Penang, Malaysia where my mother and I went for dinner at the restaurant of the hotel where we were staying. This particular restaurant was very quiet that evening. In fact only one other table had diners. The food was fantastic but the funny part was the huge amount of attention we received from the restaurant employees. Four different waiters, the maître d’ and then the actual chef who cooked our meals came to our table to enquire how everything was. First my mother and I were a bit uncomfortable by all this attention, but then we just started laughing whenever someone new approached our table. In the end we were in stitches but I guess you had to be there to see the funny side of all this. My mum and I still laugh when we remember this dining experience.
Philip: One or two are in the book. Please enjoy them.
What is your next research project?
Anja: Prof and I are still working on some humour related projects but apart from that anything is possible.
Philip: Helping to make tourists behave more patiently and intelligently, understanding non-returning visitors, the world learning to interact with Asian tourists.
For more information on the book please see our website.