This issue of ephemera explores the role of humour and laughter in society and organization. Joking practices – such as clowning, bantering, horseplay, pranks and lampooning – are a part of all workplaces, not to mention everyday life. But the meaning and significance of humour at work is by no means uncontested: humour serves variously as a coping mechanism, a subversive strategy and a management tool in contemporary organizations. Starting from this basis, the special issue seeks to explore the inherent ambiguity of humour in a range of empirical and theoretical sites. If Nietzsche proposed ‘an order of rank among philosophers according to the rank of their laughter’, might we also do the same for organization studies?