Presentation on theme: "29 1 ETHNIC HUMOR See also “African American English” “Cultural Diversity” “Indian- American Humor” “Jewish Humor” and “Spanish-American Contrasts” by."— Presentation transcript:
29 1 ETHNIC HUMOR See also “African American English” “Cultural Diversity” “Indian- American Humor” “Jewish Humor” and “Spanish-American Contrasts” by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen
29 2 ETHNIC HUMOR AS SWORD OR SHIELD Depending on its context, humor can be offensive (aimed at ridicule of an ethnic group), Or it can be defensive (aimed at protecting a group from ridicule), Or it can be both at the same time. (Rappoport 2)
29 3 ETHNIC STEREOTYPES HEAVEN is the place where the cooks are French, the police are English, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian, and everything is organized by the Swiss. HELL is where the cooks are English, the police are German, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and everything is organized by the Italians. (Nilsen & Nilsen 162)
29 4 Many jokes contain ethnic stereotypes. Christie Davies says, “To become angry about such jokes and to seek to censor them because they impinge on sensitive issues is about as sensible as smashing a thermometer because it reveals how hot it is.” (Nilsen & Nilsen 116)
29 5 ETHNIC VS. POLITICAL JOKES Alan Dundes says that Americans have more ethnic than political jokes because America has a free press where politicians and politics are lambasted on a daily basis. Americans therefore have little need for oral political jokes. But because people are often uncomfortable discussing such subjects as sexuality or racism, these tend to become the hidden subjects of joke cycles. (Nilsen & Nilsen)
29 6 INSIDERS VS. OUTSIDERS “Why aren’t Jews concerned about the abortion controversy? Because they don’t consider a fetus viable until after it graduates from medical school.”
29 7 If the tellers or listeners of this joke are gentiles, it may be anti- semitic, criticizing Jews as being overly ambitious and arrogant. But if the tellers or listeners are Jews, it may be an expression of Jewish pride and the extraordinarily high standards of child rearing. (Rappoport 2)
29 8 When a group member tells an ethnic or religious joke, it opens the door for inner-group communication and invites group members to examine their attitudes and behavior. But if outsiders tell the same joke, the effect is the opposite, because the outsider focuses on the group’s most obvious characteristics and implies that these characteristics belong to everyone in the group. Because outsiders have little power to bring about internal change, the effect is to stereotype the group, and this lessens the chances for change. (Nilsen & Nilsen 117)
29 9 JOKE TARGETS Americans consider Poles, Italians, and Portuguese stupid, and Jews, Scots, New Englanders and Iowans as canny. Canadians consider Newfies as stupid and Jews, Scots and Nova Scotians as canny. Mexicans consider people from Yucatan as stupid and people from Monterey as canny. Nigerians consider Hausas as stupid and the Ibos as canny. The English, Welsh and French consider the Irish, Belgians and Swiss as stupid, and the Scots and Jews as canny. (Davies 8)
29 10 M.I.C.H. Robert Priest, a psychologist at West Point Military Academy, has proposed what he calls the MICH Theory of Moderate Intergroup Conflict Humor. He says that people will not use humor with each other unless there is some kind of tension or strong feeling. However, when feelings go beyond the moderate level then humor exacerbates, rather than helps a negative situation. Therefore, the most amusing jokes are usually found in the middle ranges, because this is where the hostility does not overpower the humor. (Nilsen & Nilsen 116, 293)
29 11 LARRY MINTZ’S STAGES OF ETHNIC HUMOR 1. Critical Humor Targeting the Ethnic Group (e.g. Harpo Marx) 2. Self-Deprecatory Humor about the Ethnic Group (e.g. Chico Marx) 3. Realistic Humor Accepting Integration (e.g. Groucho Marx) 4. Critical Humor Targeting Mainstream Culture (e.g. Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, Mel Brooks) (Boskin and Dorinson 167) (Nilsen & Nilsen 116)
29 12 RADIO ETHNICITY During the “golden age” of radio, ethnic voices were fun to hear. One radio which ran during the 1940s was entitled “Allen’s Alley,” and featured Fred Allen. There was a loudmouth Irishman named Ajax Cassidy, a farmer named Titus Moody, and a pompous Southerner named Senator Beauregard Claghorn, whose signature line was “that’s a joke, son!”
29 13 Kenny Delmar modeled the Claghorn character after a Texas rancher who had given Delmar a ride in his Model-T ford. Even today there is a Warner Brothers’ cartoon character by the name of Foghorn Leghorn who is modeled after Beauregard Claghorn. (Nilsen & Nilsen 102)
29 14 TARGETS OF ETHNIC HUMOR The most common targets of ethnic humor, “live on the geographical, economic, or linguistic edge of the society or culture where the jokes are told, live in small communities, or rural areas on the periphery of a nation, are immigrants concentrated in blue-collar occupations. There is no evidence that the targets are stupid, but they occupy stupid locations.” (Davies 10)
29 15 AFRICAN-AMERICAN ETHNICITY See PowerPoint on “African- American Humor.”
29 16 CHINESE ETHNICITY Chinese writer Frank Chin has criticized Maxine Hong Kingston for Woman Warrior, Amy Tan for The Joy Luck Club, and David Henry Hwang for his plays F.O.B., and M. Butterfly. He accuses these writers of “boldly faking” Chinese fairy tales and childhood literature.
29 17 Kingston responded, “Sociologists have criticized me for not knowing myths and for distorting them.” In China, pirates illegally translate her books for publication in Taiwan and China. These pirates “correct” her myths, and revise them to make them conform to traditional Chinese versions. “They don’t understand that myths have to change, be useful or be forgotten.” “Like the people who carry them across oceans, the myths become American.” (Nilsen & Nilsen 117)
29 18 GERMAN ETHNICITY Between 1931 and 1936 The Jack Pearl Show was on radio. Baron von Munchausen was the central figure in a running skit. The Baron spoke with a strong German accent that contrasted with the ordinary language of Charlie.
29 19 BARON: Und dere in frundt off me wuz a green elephant. SHARLIE: Now wait a minute, Baron; do you mean to tell me you actuallyl saw a green elephant? BARON: (with great indignation) Vas you dere, Sharlie? (Nilsen & Nilsen 102)
29 20 INDIAN ETHNICITY See PowerPoint on “Indian Humor.”
29 21 IRISH ETHNICITY “Since Irish humor developed out of the oral tradition (the telling of jokes and stories in Irish pubs), it is very epiphenal in nature.” “Like Jewish humor, Irish humor developed out of pain and tragedy that resulted in a diaspora.”
29 22 “Irish humor, like Jewish humor, contains much wordplay, and like Jewish humor, much of Irish wordplay is bilingual and/or bicultural, relating to both the Gaelic/Celtic and to the English language and culture.” Many Irish, like many Jews, “are trying to reestablish their roots, and it is the humor in Irish written and oral literature that is helping them to do so.” (Nilsen Humor in Irish Literature xv)
29 23 ITALIAN ETHNICITY In the late 1970s, comedian Don Novello spoke with an Italian accent and dressed in clerical garb when doing comedy skits about Father Guido Sarducci. He was a hit on Saturday Night Live and on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, but when he went to the Vatican to pose for publicity photos he was arrested for impersonating a priest. (Nilsen & Nilsen 115)
29 24 JEWISH ETHNICITY See PowerPoint on “Jewish Humor.”
29 25 RUSSIAN ETHNICITY Russian immigrant Yakov Smirnoff entertained Americans through the cold war and beyond with such jokes as, “I have a Russian Express Card. It says, `Don’t Leave Home!’” and “One of the biggest differences between America and Russia is that in America you can always find a party, but in Russia, the party always finds you.” (Nilsen & Nilsen 115)
29 26 SCANDINAVIAN ETHNICITY Garrison Keillor exploits Scandinavian stereotypes in his “Lake Wobegon.” “Swedish flu is the usual flu with chills, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, achiness, but it’s accompanied by an overpowering urge to put things in order.” (Nilsen & Nilsen 116)
29 27 SCOTTISH HUMOR What’s the difference between a poor Scotsman, a rich Scotsman and an old Scotsman? A poor Scotsman has a can o’ pee under the bed. A rich scotsman has a canopy over the bed. And an old Scotsman can na’ pee at all.
29 28 SPANISH-AMERICAN ETHNICITY See PowerPoint on “Spanish- American Humor.”
29 CONCLUSION We must keep some basic principles in mind as we look at ethnic humor: Someone else’s ethnic identification does not seem as important as does our own. The appreciation of ethnic humor correlates with how much we know about, and identify with, the joke target.
29 30 !!!! Humor is a tool that can be used either for building up or tearing down relationships. A joke told by a member of the targeted group is quite different from the same joke when it is told by an outsider. (Nilsen & Nilsen 118)
29 31 !! We must also be aware that ethnic humor now has an edge it didn’t used to have. Toward the end of his career, Groucho Marx began to worry about some of the most talented comedians he knew who would soon be out of work because dialect humor was falling out of fashion.
29 32 !!! “The inscrutable Charlie Chan’s pidgin English disappeared from the airwaves and so did Tonto’s manly grunting. Children no longer read El Gordo comic strips, and both Beulah and Amos ‘n’ Andy disappeared. In 1970, Bill Dana gave up telling jokes through the voice of his popular Jose Jimenez character, and Frito-Lay discontinued its Frito Bandito commercials. (Nilsen & Nilsen 103)
29 33 Web Site: Encyclopedia of 20th Century American Humor. m/catalog/OXHUMOR.aspx m/catalog/OXHUMOR.aspx
29 34 References # 1: Belois, Nathan. “The Evolution and Function of Ethnic Humor.” Tempe, AZ: ASU LIN 515 Research Paper, May 1, Boskin, Joseph, ed. The Humor Prism in Twentieth- Century America Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, Boskin, Joseph, and Joseph Dorinson. “Racial and Ethnic Humor” (Mintz ). Davies, Christie. Ethnic Humor around the World: A Comparative Analysis. Bloomington, IN: Indiana Univ Press, Dundes, Alan. Cracking Jokes: Studies of Sick Humor Cycles and Stereotypes. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 1987.
29 35 References # 2: Mintz, Lawrence E. ed. Humor in America: A Research Guide to Genres and Topics. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L. F. Nilsen. Encyclopedia of 20 th Century American Humor. Westport, CT: Greenwood, Nilsen, Don L. F. Humor in Irish Literature: A Reference Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, Rappoport, Leon. Punchlines: The Case for Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Humor. Westport, CT: Prager, Rogin, Michael. Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, Winokur, Mark. American Laughter: Immigrants, Ethnicity, and 1930s Hollywood Film Comedy New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1996.