An investigation into the vital intellectual and social views which underlie ""serious"" film comedy. ""This study examines comedies that. . . are successfully funny. Only by [this] can a comic work capture human experience. And only by [this] can a comic work be serious."" Mast runs lightly through theories of comedy-origins (mythic, Bergson's ""mechanics,"" etc.) then outlines eight basic plot structures, and discusses ""signals"" to what the audience responds to as a ""comic climate."" Throughout he characterizes the outstanding production as a stimulus to thought and ideas. He examines specific craftsmen and their works: Max Linder and John Bunny, Sennett, Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Christie and Roach, Lubitsch, Clair and Renoir, Hawks, Capra and Wilder, the Marx Brothers, Fields, Tati and Lewis."" Mast's discussion of Chaplin and Keaton, whose ""bodies actually depicted their brains,"" provides a strenuous series of illuminations, perhaps familiar but it all coheres, and there is particular emphasis on the intellectual thrust of Keaton's on-camera character. Mast writes convincingly, and the reader finds himself nodding assent to such judgments as a dismissal of Stanand-Ollie's films after 1932 and his assessment of France's darling, Jerry Lewis, which concludes, after reducing the Bellboy to a tinkle, ""the soul of comedy is the brain."" For film students mainly, but with all the current revivals it may reach a larger audience.