Multivac explains why jokes are funny.
This story might almost be taken as a satire of the religion of science, with scientists as its priesthoods (a concept Asimov used to different effect in "The Mayors”). Only the best minds can work with Multivac, and the best of the best are the Grand Masters, whose actions cannot be questioned.
Beyond that, and beyond the characterization of Noel Meyerhof, the Grand Master who asks Multivac why jokes exist, the story still has some interest. The answer to Meyerhof’s question is that humans are being experimented with (shades of “Breeds There a Man…?”), and that humor is a technique to test our psyches. The ending builds on this well enough—to a point, beyond which it becomes melodramatic and exaggerated. It is for this reason, the lack of proper punch at the ending, that the story does not end up as completely satisfying, just largely so.
|Earth Is Room Enough|
|The Best Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov|
|Complete Stories, The, Vol. 1|