Are we having a laugh? Dr. Matthew Turner discusses comedy and its influences on society in public radio interview

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Matthew Turner, Ph.D., once drove hours out of his way, on a cross-country vacation with his family, to see the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota.


“Because Weird Al sang about it,” said the Radford University Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures interim chair.

“I even got the T-shirt,” he deadpanned.

Turner has a number of stories to tell that relate to his love of comedy, some of which may land him in hot water, so to speak, like the time he told his wife he was too busy to go out with her on a Friday night.

“She came home from work to find me watching ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail,’” Turner recalled. “I told her I was doing research.”

It was true. Turner, who also is a professor in the School of Communications – not an employee at Big Roy’s Heating and Plumbing – is serious about the things that make us laugh. His Ph.D. dissertation, “Signs of Comedy: A Semiotic Approach to Comedy in the Arts,” delved into “how comedy creates and subverts meaning in a variety of art forms.”

Turner spoke recently about his research and the topic of comedy and celebrity in a recorded interview for the “With Good Reason” public radio program. The interview will air May 1-7 on more than 60 radio stations across the United States.

Listeners in the New River Valley can hear the program at 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 4, on Public Radio WVRU 89.9. The show is also available as a podcast at

In the interview with host Sarah McConnell, “we talked about some of my influences and areas of study, including the Marx Brothers, Weird Al Yankovic, Monty Python and the Gregory Brothers of Autotune the News fame,” Turner said. “We covered comedy and celebrity and talked about how all of comedy is a form of inside joke.”

The “With Good Reason” radio program is produced by Virginia Humanities for the Virginia Higher Education Broadcasting Consortium, which comprises all of Virginia’s public colleges and universities.

The award-winning program is heard by an estimated 100,000 people each week on public radio stations in 33 states, including Virginia and Washington, D.C. Thousands more download the episodes via iTunes.

By Chad Osborne, 540-831-7761,

Apr 29, 2021
School of Communication