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Speaker Profiles

John Morreall, President of the ISHS (International Society for the Study of Humor) College of William and Mary, Virginia USA 

Dr. John Morreall has been Professor of Religious Studies at the College of William and Mary since 2001. His Ph.D. in Philosophy is from the University of Toronto. He is President of the International Society for Humor Studies, and a member of the editorial board of Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, where he was Review Editor from 1988 to 1999. Prof. Morreall’s books include:

        • Taking Laughter Seriously (State University of New York Press, 1983),
        • The Philosophy of Laughter and Humor (State University of New York Press, 1987),
        • Humor Works (Human Resource Development Press, 1997), and
        • Comedy, Tragedy, and Religion (State University of New York Press, 1999).

He has also published more than 50 articles and reviews on humor, including one in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. As a consultant, he has done over 400 presentations for schools, medical groups, and corporations. His clients include Head Start, Disney, the World Bank, AT&T, and IBM. His work on humor work has been featured in the New York Times, the Manchester Guardian, and Asahi Shimbun (Tokyo). Dr. Morreall has appeared on radio and television in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands.



Ursula Beermann, Dept. of Psychology, Zurich University, Switzerland

Ursula Beermann is a lecturer in the section of Personality and Assessment, Institute of Psychology in Zurich. She finished her studies of Psychology in Karl Franzens University of Graz (Austria) in 2004. Since july 2004 she is working as a doctorate in Zurich. 2005 she passed the FACS Final Test after having attended a FACS training workshop in 2004 (conducted by Erika Rosenberg). She is currently teaching “Diagnostics of Emotional behavior" (with FACS as an element of the course). Her emphases in scientific work are FACS, Positive Psychology (values and virtues, orientations to happiness, and satisfaction with life) and humour. Her PhD project will deal with the question how humour can serve different virtues.




Irina Falkenberg, Dept. of Psychiatry, Tuebingen University, Germany 

Irina Falkenberg is a resident at the University of Tübingen, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy. She is currently working on the perception and processing of humour in psychiatric patents. She recently started a group programme using humour as a coping tool for psychiatric patients with depression.



Christian F. Hempelmann, Georgia Southern University, Georgia, USA

Christian F. Hempelmann graduated from Purdue University with a Ph.D. in linguistics, specializing in humor studies and computational linguistics. His dissertation, entitled "Paronomasic Puns: Target Recoverability towards Automatic Generation," was supervised by Victor Raskin. He has been working in linguistic humor studies since 1996, received an M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Hannover, Germany, in 1998 and another M.A. in English from Youngstown State University in 2000 with a thesis on "Incongruity and Resolution of Humorous Narratives-Linguistic Humor Theory and the Medieval Bawdry of Rabelais, Boccaccio, and Chaucer" supervised by Salvatore Attardo. Apart from linguistic humor studies, his research interests include ontological semantics, historical linguistics, and phonology. After a year as a postdoctoral researcher in computational linguistics at the Institute for Intelligent Systems at the University of Memphis, he is about to join the Department of Writing and Linguistics of the University of Georgia Southern as an assistant professor for computational linguistics. Christian taught at the 2003 and 2004 International Summer Schools for Research in Humor and Laughter, won the 2003 ISHS emerging scholar award, and has been a member of the editorial board of HUMOR since 2005.



Neal Norrick, Chair of English Linguistics, Saarland University, Germany

Neal R. Norrick holds the chair of English Linguistics at Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany. He has taught English Linguistics at Northern Illinois University and the Universities of Würzburg, Kassel, Hamburg, Braunschweig and Regensburg. He received his his B.A. in Philosophy from Lehigh University in 1970, his M.A. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1972, and his doctorate in General Linguistics from Regensburg University in 1978. His research specializations include conversation, narrative, verbal humor, and phraseology. In recent years, Professor Norrick has focused his research on spoken language.

Professor Norrick serves on the editorial staff of the Journal of Pragmatics (Special Issues editor) and the advisory boards of the journals Humor: International Journal of Humor Research; Text: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse; and Discourse Processes

His publications on humor include the monograph:

  • Conversational joking: Humor in everyday talk. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

and the essays:

  • Non-verbal humor and joke performance. Humor 17-4 (2004), 401-409.
  • Hyperbole, extreme case formulations. Journal of Pragmatics 36 (2004): 1727-1739.
  • Humor, tellability and conarration in conversation. Text 24, 1 (2004): 79-111.
  • Issues in conversational joking. Journal of Pragmatics 35 (2003): 1333-1359.
  • On the conversational performance of narrative jokes. Humor 14-3 (2001): 255-274.

Birgit Rißland, Emerging Scholar, Educational Science, University of Lüneburg

Birgit Rißland works in the Psychological-Service Division of the Police Department for the Province of Schleswig-Holstein. On the side, she is on the teaching staff of the University of Lueneburg where she offers Humor Workshops for students studying to be school teachers, instructors and social educators.

She worked at the University of Lueneburg for three and a half years on a project for quality-assurance in the education of teachers. Part of this project was the investigation of the associations between humor and stress-management and quality of teaching. On the basis of this study, she won the "Emerging Scholar Award" at the ISHS-Conference in Forli in 2002.

She received her doctorate from the Technical University of Braunschweig on the basis her thesis dealing with humor and its relevance for the teaching profession. This thesis was published by the Klinkhardt Publishers as well as the publication, "Lachen macht Schule" ("Laughter Shows the Way") of which she is co-publisher.

Unfortunately Birgit Rißland cannot come!


Graeme Ritchie, Department of Computing at the University of Aberdeen, UK 

Graeme Ritchie was a member of academic staff at the University of Edinburgh from 1983 to 2004, and he is now a senior research fellow in the Department of Computing at the University of Aberdeen. He has worked in artificial intelligence and natural language processing since 1973, publishing three books and over fifty papers. His research into humour began in 1993 with the supervision of a pioneering doctoral thesis on computational humour. Since then, he has been developing a rigorous framework for analysing verbally expressed humour, the subject of a book published in 2003. During academic year 2001-2002, he held a Leverhulme Research Fellowship on "Linguistic Modelling of Humour", and is currently principal investigator in a three-year project using computational humour to help children develop their linguistic skills. He lectured at the Humour Summer School in 2002, 2003, and 2004, and was the local organiser in 2003.



Appletree Rodden, Biochemist, Physician and Cognitive Scientist, Hamburg

After earning his “Local Preacher’s License” in the Methodist Church (Texas, U.S.A.), Appletree received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, then a psychiatric discharge from the United States Paratroopers (he’d become a conscientious objector to war during his 2nd year of service: directing the chapel choir, playing the organ and jumping out of airplanes), then an M.S. and Ph.D in biochemistry, then - after 4 years of post-doctoral research (neurochemistry) with the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford - he went to Germany as a ballet dancer.

After 3 years of professional dancing (Staatstheater Ballet of Kassel, Germany; Israel National Opera Ballet, Tel-Aviv), he completed medical school and went directly into a residency in Neurosurgery (University of Marburg, Germany). After 8 years of Neurosurgery, Appletree went to Burkino Faso, West Africa, where he worked with the German Development Service as a village physician.

From Africa, he returned to Germany (Hamburg) where he worked for 2 years as a rehabilitation physician for severely brain injured patients before moving to Tübingen where he began studying brain reorganization after brain-injury by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Appletree has been doing humor-and-the-brain (fMRI) research there for the past 5 years. He is also now working as a psychotherapist with the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine at the Christian Hospital of Quakenbrueck.

Appletree interprets his life as a bizarre attempt at being faithful to his very unorthodox love affair with “Mother Church”. He has spent the last 45 years of his life exploring the mysteries of the mind-body-soul with a Bible in one pocket, a joke book in the other, making music as he goes.



Willibald Ruch, Dept. of Psychology, Zurich University, Switzerland

Willibald Ruch, 2002 president of the International Society of Humour Studies (ISHS) is a professor of personality and assessment at the Department of Psychology at Zurich University, Switzerland. He received his PhD from the University of Graz, Austria in 1980 and later worked at the Universities of Düsseldorf, Berlin (Humbold) and Frankfurt in Germany and Queens University Belfast in the UK. Between 1992 and 1998 he held a Heisenberg-fellowship awarded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft-DFG (German Research Foundation) which he devoted to the study of the sense of humour. The psychology of humour, laughter and cheerfulness has been a focal point throughout his career and he has authored about 50 journal articles and book chapters on the subject and constructed several humour tests. Recently he has been studying humour from a perspective of positive psychology. He is a member of the editorial board of HUMOR--International Journal of Humor Research, co-editor of the humor research monograph series, and initiator of the humor pod in the positive psychology network. He edited and contributed several chapters to "The Sense of Humour: Explorations of a personality characteristic". A recent publication is the chapter on humour for the VIA Classification of Strengths Manual. Throughout his work his aim has been to weave humour with adjacent fields of inquiry while his interest in humour and laughter focus primarily on the definition and measurement of the sense of humour, deriving and validating a taxonomy of jokes and cartoons, the role of emotion, mood temperament in humour, the study of the facial expression in smiling and laughter, and more recently, the relationship between humour, laughter and health. He is webmaster of the Humor Research website.



Christel Ruckgaber, Clowns im Dienst, Tuebingen

In 1999 Christel Ruckgaber, a trained social educator, founded "Clowns im Dienst" in Tübingen.

She is the head of this initiative, in charge of all aspects such as training, organization, administration, fundraising, etc.

Together with her husband, Klaus Ruckgaber, she carries out yearly training sessions for professional clowns for children's hospitals, nursing homes, and psychiatric clinics.







Julia Taylor, Emerging Scholar, University of Cincinnati, Deprartment of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Schience, USA

Julia Taylor is a Ph.D. student at University of Cincinnati, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science.   A member of the Applied Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, she works on computational recognition of humor, for which she was a winner of an Emerging Scholar award in 2004.  In addition to humor, her interests include natural language and text mining, imprecise reasoning, and autonomous recognition of ontologies in the context of the Semantic Web.




Barbara Wild, Dept. of Psychiatry, Tuebingen University, Germany

After studying medicine in Tuebingen, Boston, USA, and London, UK, Barbara Wild started her professional career training as a neurologist at the department of Neurology, Tuebingen University. Afterwards she also trained as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist at the Department of Psychiatry, Tuebingen. Over the years her scientific interest shifted from movement disorders in neurological patients to facial expressions of emotions, the phenomenon of emotional contagion to laughter and humour (which of course is contagious!). She has written her habilitation and published about emotional contagion in healthy subjects as well as psychiatric patients. Besides psychometric tests she has used fMRI for research into emotional contagion as well as the perception of humorous stimuli. Since 2003 she also has a private practice for neurological and psychiatric patients in Nagold, a town near Tuebingen. Her group at the Department of Psychiatry is working on the perception and production of humour and the use of humour as a coping strategy in psychiatric patients.

© 2005-2008 UKPP
Letzte Änderung: 19. Aug 2005