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Modern World

Fall 2009

Kim Ebensgaard Jensen


AAU, Almen Engelsk

Humor
1. What is humor?
Humor is not as easy to define as it seems. A set of straightforward definitions taken from MSN
Encarta's entry on the word 'humor' are

funny quality: the quality or content of something such as a story, performance, or joke that
elicits amusement and laughter
ability to see something as funny: the ability to see that something is funny, or the
enjoyment of things that are funny
funny things as genre: writings and other material created to make people laugh

A similar set is found in Merriam-Webster's entry on the same word:

that quality which appeals to a sense of the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous


the mental faculty of discovering, expressing, or appreciating the ludicrous or absurdly
incongruous
something that is or is designed to be comical or amusing

These definitions pretty much capture the essence of what could be called our general 'lay
definition' of humor, and they do capture the basics of what humor is, but there is more to humor
than just the ability to make people laugh or to be able to laugh at funny things.
While laughter is indeed a typical reaction to humor, things are more complicated than that.
I'm sure we all have experienced the following cases:

something is perceived as humorous even though nobody laughs at it


people laugh at things that not not really humorous, as in the case of, say, glee
laughter can also be an emotional response to fear or embarassment

So, humor cannot be defined simply as something that makes you laugh. The response to humor is
important in the definition of something as humorous, but there are aspects and details to humor and
laughter which are sometimes overlooked.
2. Social aspects of humor
Humor is very much a social phenomenon and serves various types of social or interpersonal
purposes.
2.1 Laughter alone and with other people
The social aspects of humor are reflected in the nature of laughter. Laughter typically occurs in
groups of two or more people and rarely, or at least less frequently, when people are alone. Research
into laughter and humor has shown that people who laugh at something in the company of others
often do not laugh at the same thing when the are alone.
Likewise, if an individual is in the company of other people who do not laugh at something,
then this individual will typically stop finding it humorous. Conversely, being the only person who
laughs at something in a group of people often results in embarrassment and awkwardness. Finally,
an individual who does not normally find something humorous may laugh at it, ending up seeing it
as humorous after all, if in the company of other people who are laughing at it.
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Modern World
Fall 2009

Kim Ebensgaard Jensen


AAU, Almen Engelsk

2.2 Laughter, humor and social affiliations


Humor and laughter may be a way of signaling social allegiances, much the same way certain
dialects or sociolects, or at least the use of certain specific linguistic expressions may signal group
or speech community membership.
By laughing at something one shows allegiance with a) the other people who are laughing at
it and b) with the individual who delivers the stimulus (like a joke, riddle, funny story etc.). In this
sense, humor can be used to assign group membership to oneself and one another in terms of a
common sense of humor which ultimately is also a method of self-identification; as the famous
linguist Dwight Bolinger wrote, there is no limit to the ways in which human beings league
themselves together for self-identification.
This means that not laughing at somebody's attempt at humor not only disproves of their
sense of humor but also signals social distance and non-sympathy (it can of course also signal the
failure to understand the joke etc.). Another consequence is that not laughing when other people
laugh signal non-membership and non-allegiance with them.
2.3 Humor and culture
Another indicator of the social nature of humor is the fact that humor differs from culture to culture
in terms of, for instance:

what is humorous and what is not


when humor is appropriate (and more specifically, which types of humor are appropriate in
which situations)
the purposes that humor serve

These intercultural differences suggest that humor is actually conventionalized to some degree (and
they also mean that many attempts at humor in intercultural communication fail miserably).
3. Sense of humor
So, humor is a quite social thing, but at the same time it is also highly individual and very much a
matter of personal tastes and preferences. Otherwise, people would not have different senses of
humor, sense of humor being what is described in the dictionaries as the capacity for appreciating
something as being humorous or funny.
Not only does sense of humor differ from person to person, but it may also differ within the
same person. It may change over time, but it may also be dependent on one's mood, the context of
the situation, and even the time of day.
4. Verbal humor versus conceptual humor
Even though humor differs from individual to individual and from culture to culture, there is one
distinction which seems to apply universally, which has to do with how the humorous effect is
achieved, and that is Freud's distinction between verbal humor and conceptual humor. Verbal
humor is when an aspect of language, such as structural ambiguity, is exploited in order to
achieve a humorous effect (1), while conceptual humor involves concepts or ideas that are thought
of as humorous without using aspects of language for other purposes conveying the humorous
message (2).
(1)

a. I have the heart of boy. I keep it in a jar under my desk.


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Modern World
Fall 2009

Kim Ebensgaard Jensen


AAU, Almen Engelsk

b. Contemporary art is just what it says: it's temporary and it's a con.
c.
A: Have you taken a bath?
B: Why? Is there one missing?
d.
Q: Why did leopard never escape from the zoo?
A: Because it was spotted.
e.
Q: When is a door not a door?
A: When it's ajar.
(2)

a.
b.
c.

Q: What do you call somebody who hangs around with musicians?


A: The bloody drummer
Q: What does it say on the bottom of beer bottles in Aarhus?
A: Open other end.
An Iranian, an Arab and an Indian were the sole survivors of a shipwreck. As they
were splashing about n the water, a big shark came and ate the Iranian and the Arab,
but not the Indian. Gratefully the Indian asked the shark 'Why didn't you eat me'. The
shark replied 'I had one of you people last year and my arse is still burning'.

Note that dodgy ethnic jokes like the one in (2c) which I got from the British stand-up comedian
Omid Djalili are in many ways typical conceptual jokes.
In addition there are other types of humor such as visual humor, slapstick humor, and
musical humor. There are many cases where different types of humor are combined, as in the
movie Airplane when a journalist tells his colleagues 'Okay, let's take some pictures', whereupon the
journalists remove a number of pictures on the wall and leave with them, or in the same movie
when somebody says 'That was when the shit hit the fan' followed by a shot of a fan being hit by
manure.
4. Theories of humor/types of humor
As hinted at above, humor serves a number of quite important social functions such as selfidentification and signaling of allegiances. Humor may also be used to deal with things that are
otherwise difficult, serious or even taboo, such as death or sex, or to criticize certain things such as
politics, the government, religious beliefs, institutions, social values, social groups etc.
There are basically three central theories about what constitutes humor and what humor is
used for. While different in scope, these theories are not mutually exclusive, but actually quite
compatible with each other:

incongruity theory: according to the incongruity theory, humor is generated when there is
conflict or incongruity between what we expect to occur and what actually occurs (all
examples in (1) involve incongruity)
superiority theory: according to this theory, humor is generated at the cost of others
making you feel superior to them that is, the mocking others or simply the indignity of
others generates humor (all jokes in (2) involve superiority)
psychic release theory: according to the psychic release theory, humor is a method of
releasing us from our inner battles and torments, and thus humor is often generated when
giving the sense of release from some threat that is being overcome. Dark jokes and dirty
jokes or other types of joke that deal with taboo topics are said to involve psychic release.

5. The incongruity theory


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Modern World
Fall 2009

Kim Ebensgaard Jensen


AAU, Almen Engelsk

The incongruity theory is one of the three main theories of humor, and probably the most relevant
one in relation to verbal humor. The incongruity theory focuses on the humorous effect that
conflict or incongruity between what we expect to appear in a joke and what actually appears.
5.1 Incongruity and humor
The notion of incongruity is actually quite simple. The theoretical application of the term is very
much parallel to the lay definition or dictionary definition of the word.
5.1.1 Incongruity
Here are some dictionary definitions:
1. incongruousness: the fact of being incongruous
2. something out of place: something that does not seem to fit in with or be appropriate to its context
(MSN Encarta definition of 'incongruity)
lacking congruity: as a : not harmonious : INCOMPATIBLE <incongruous colors> b : not
conforming : DISAGREEING <conduct incongruous with principle> c : inconsistent within itself <an
incongruous story> d : lacking propriety : UNSUITABLE <incongruous manners>
(Merriam-Webster definition of 'incongruous')
unusual or different from the surroundings or from what is generally happening: The new computer
looked incongruous in the dark book-filled library. It seems incongruous to have a woman as the editor of
a men's magazine.
(Cambridge Dictionaries Online definition of 'incongruous')

All of these definitions involve something that is out of place or does not fit well together and
which is in a state of incompatibility or even conflict.
5.1.2 Incongruity and ambiguity
In incongruity theory, it is held humor is generated by incongruity between various elements of a
joke, or a riddle, or some other type of humoristic expression. Most often, there is incongruity
between what we expect to occur in the joke and what actually occurs in it.
Humor-generating incongruity may be the result of a mistake or a lapse of some kind, but in
many cases it is carefully planned by the teller (i.e. the one who tells the joke) so as to mislead the
tellee (i.e. the recipient of the joke). This incongruity is typically caused by exploitation units within
the language which are ambiguous, or polysemous (meaning that they have the potential to express
more than just one meaning).
What happens when incongruity generates humor is basically that we expect encounter one
meaning of the unit, but in stead one of the other meanings is activated. Thus, the teller misleads the
tellee into expecting something, and then when the punchline, which is incongruous with the rest of
the joke, is delivered, there is an element of surprise. According to incongruity theory, it is more or
less this element of surprise that generates the humorous effect.
Here's an example of how polysemy is exploited in order to create incongruity:
(3)

A: Do you believe in clubs for young people?


B: Only when kindness fails.
(W.C. Fields)

In this instance, the word 'club' is the locus of incongruity (a more technical term is linguistic
trigger). Person A's utterance activates the meaning of the word 'club' which has to do with AN
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Modern World
Fall 2009

Kim Ebensgaard Jensen


AAU, Almen Engelsk

ASSOCIATION OF PEOPLE WITH SIMILAR INTERESTS and perhaps the PHYSICAL


LOCATION ISTSELF WHERE THE MEMBERS OF THE ASSOCIATION SPEND TIME
TOGETHER. However, in person B's utterance, a completely different meaning of the word is
activated namely, that of A STICK USED FOR STRIKING OBJECTS AND/OR PEOPLE. This
creates incongruity, since A was expecting the answer to his question to also have to do with the
associations of people, because normally, discourse ('discourse' meaning any stretch of language
that is longer than the sentence) is expected to be coherent. Since A expected B to utter something
which is coherent which the topic of the discourse, the activation of the meaning of club which has
to do with sticks (and violence) has somewhat of a surprise effect.
5.1.3 One utterance, two meanings
What happens is that in stead of just expressing one meaning, the utterance, or at least the linguistic
trigger in the utterance, ends up simultaneously expressing two meanings in a process which is
sometimes called bisociation.
According to Alison Ross, there are three general features of incongruity-based humorous
expressions:
Conflict between what is expected and what occurs in the joke.
The conflict is caused by some ambiguity at some level of language
The punchline is surprising because it activates meaning which is not expected, since it is not
compatible or coherent with the rest of the joke, or discourse
5.2 Levels of language with potential for incongruity
There are several areas of language in which there are units and structures which may be exploited
in order to create incongruity, most of which involve ambiguity. Some of these are:

phonology: system of sounds in a language


graphology: written form of a language
morphology: the structure and organization of individual words
lexis: individual words of a language (and the relation between their form and their
meaning)
syntax: how words are structured into meaningful strings of words

Each of these levels involve various types of conventions of language (or rules or whatever),
which may be exploited by speakers in order to create humor-generating incongruity.
5.3 Phonology: homophony as a source of incongruity
Homophones are two (or more) words that are pronounced, but not spelled identically. An example
are the words 'read' (the verb in its past tense form) and 'red', both of which are pronounced as /red/.
The same string of sounds having different meanings is obviously a source of incongruity. This is
illustrated by the following example:
(4)

a.
b.

A: What's black and white and red all over?


B: A newspaper
Falstaff: Is thy name wart?
Wart: Yea
Falstaff: Thou art a rugged wort
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Modern World
Fall 2009

c.

Kim Ebensgaard Jensen


AAU, Almen Engelsk

(William Shakespeare, King Henry VI)


The Sporting Life!
age 20-30 TRI-WEEKLY
age 30-45 TRY WEEKLY
over 45 TRY WEAKLY
(from a postcard)

A related strategy is to make use of strings of sounds that are similar, but not identical. This type of
'near-homophony' is usually exploited such that one word is replaced by the other. Because the two
words are similar enough for both of their meanings to be activated at the same time, incongruity is
created:
(5)

a. Cloning Around
b. We went to the Middle East and we stopped Hussein from Saddamizing it (Frank
Caliendo impersonating George W. Bush)
c. There's miracles in the Bible... like when Moses, and I'm not talking guns and Moses.
(Robin Williams)

5.4 Morphological sources of incongruity


There are several ways to use morphology to generate humor-creating incongruity. One way to do
that is to play around with different affixes that sound the same or with parts of free morphemes
that look or sound like affixes:
(6)

a.

A: What's a baby pig called?


B: A piglet.
A: So what's a baby toy called?
B: A toilet.
b. Harwich is for the Continent, Frinton for the incontinent. (well-known graffito)

Compounding is also a source of humor-generating incongruity as seen in these examples:


(7)

a. Have you heard about the man who bought a paper shop? It blew away.
b.
Seagoon: Lady Marks. Where is her ladyship at the moment.
Headstone: My lady hasn't got a ship at the moment
(The Goon Show)
c. Farewell to the welfare state (Labour Party in Thatcher's Britain)
e.
A: Does the matchbox?
B: No, but the tincan

5.5 Lexical sources of incongruity


Lexis, or vocabulary, is a common source of humorous congruity. The club-joke above involves
exploitation of lexis.
Homonymy/polysemy is a commonly used lexical source of incongruity. Here are some
more examples:
(8)

a.

A: What makes a tree noisy?


B: Its bark
b. He walked with a pronounced limp pronounced L.I.M.P.
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Modern World
Fall 2009

Kim Ebensgaard Jensen


AAU, Almen Engelsk

c.

Q: What is grey, has four legs, a tail and a trunk?


A: A mouse going on holiday
d. We have no way of finding out what the outfits of the sweet Lord Jesus were. He's always
the 'sweet Lord Jesus', isn't he. Do we know if he was sweet or not? Do we know? Does
that mean that the disciples were licking him? Is that what's going on?
(Ross Noble)
e. Very well. Mr. Dyall, the floor is yours but remember, the roof is ours.
(The Goon Show)
Prepositions are polysemous in English (and in most other languages for that matter), and they are
often used as a source of humorous incongruity:
(9)

a. You said you were over me. When were you ever under me? (Friends)
b. So, we got a plethora of stars this evening. I actually got recognized myself today in
Dixons. A member of staff came op to me and went 'Hey, you're that mad bloke of the
tele'. I went 'That's me', and he went 'No, you're that mad bloke. Off the tele!'
(Lee Mack)
c. A house owner in Golders Green was forced to leave his house through dangerous cracks
in the walls.

One way of generating humor with idioms is to literalize them through catachresis, literalization
of idioms being the process of assigning literal meanings to the words in otherwise idiomatic
expressions, which creates incongruity between the idiomatic meaning and the literal meanings as
in
(10)

a. I have the heart of a boy. I keep it in a jar under my desk.


b. This is when I put my foot in my mouth... better take the shoes off first.
c. Yo mama so fat she can't even jump to conclusions

5.6 Syntax as a source of incongruity


Syntax-based humor often exploits possibility for the same string of words having different
syntactic structures, often by setting up the context in which one structure is the most relevant but
then selecting another possible, and less expected, structure. Here are some examples:
(11)

a. Time flies like an arrow. (Fruit flies like a banana.)


[S ] [ V ][A ]
[
S ][V ] [ DO
[
S ][V ][ DO ]
b. Benson: I 'll call you a cab.
[S] [V ] [IO ][DO ]
[S] [V ] [DO][CO]
Kraus: I've been called worse things before.
(Benson)

option 1 (expected structure)


option 2 (unexpected structure)
option 1 (expected structure)
option 2 (unexpected structure)

c. Waiter: We do n't serve colored people.


[S] [V-] [A] [-V ] [
IO
]
option 1 (exptected structure)
[S] [V-] [A] [-V ] [
DO
]
option 2 (unexpected structure)
Customer: That's fine by me. I just want some roast chicken.
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Modern World
Fall 2009

Kim Ebensgaard Jensen


AAU, Almen Engelsk

d. First cannibal: What book are you reading?


Second cannibal: It's called 'How to serve your fellow-man'
[A ] [ V ][
IO
] option 1 (expected structure)
[A ] [ V ][
DO
] option 2 (unexpected structure)
6. Superiority theory
The superiority theory of humor (also referred to as the self-esteem humor theory), which was
originally proposed by the British philosopher Thomas Hobbes in 1651, states that what makes us
laugh is the sudden glory of realizing (or imagining) the misfortunes or disagreeable attributes of
others, which make ourselves seem superior to them even though we are well aware of our own
defects:
Sudden glory is the passion which maketh those grimaces called laughter; and is caused either by
some sudden act of their own that pleaseth them; or by the apprehension of some deformed thing in
another, by comparison whereof they suddenly applaud themselves. And it is incident most to them
that are conscious of the fewest abilities in themselves; who are forced to keep themselves in their
own favour by observing the imperfections of other men. And therefore much laughter at the
defects of others is a sign of pusillanimity. For of great minds one of the proper works is to help and
free others from scorn, and compare themselves only with the most able.
(Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan)
Jokes and other humorous expressions within the domain of what is called superiority humor poke
fun at certain people by pointing out their perceived weaknesses, misfortunes, or defects. Not only
does suoperiority jokes poke fun at other people, but often at people who are members of certain
social classes, or social groups.
This means that superiority humor is often more complex than just laughing at the
imperfections of others, and it is more than just glee, because it involves complex social patterns,
social categories, and social attitudes of certain social groups towards each other. Racist and dodgy
ethnic jokes, sexist jokes, mother-in-law jokes and all those types of politically incorrect jokes are
instances of superiority humor.
6.1. Uh-huh-huh-uh-huh-huh-huh... they said 'butt': an important component of superiority humor
One important component of superiority jokes regardless for their form and structure is what is
called the butt. The butt of humor is that person or that social group which is mocked in a
superiority joke. Here are some examples:
(12)

a. A Buddhist monk goes to a barber to have his head shaved. "What should I pay you?" the
monk asks. "No price, for a holy man such as yourself," the barber replies. And what do
you know, the next day the barber comes to open his shop, and finds on his doorstep a
dozen gemstones. That day, a priest comes in to have his hair cut. "What shall I pay you,
my son?" "No price, for a man of the cloth such as yourself." And what do you know, the
next day, the barber comes to open his shop, and finds on his doorstep a dozen roses. That
day, Rabbi Finklestein comes in to get his payoss trimmed. "What do you want I should
pay you?" "Nothing, for a man of God such as yourself." And the next morning, what do
you know? The barber finds on his doorstep a dozen rabbis!
b. A Scotsman, Englishman and an Irishman are sitting in a bar. All of a sudden, three flies
dive into their beers. The Englishman says, "Barman, a fly just dived into my beer. Bring
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Modern World
Fall 2009

Kim Ebensgaard Jensen


AAU, Almen Engelsk

me another one." The Englishman got another beer. The Irishman says, "Ah, to hell with
it," and empties his pint, fly and all. The Scotsman pulls the fly out of his beer and
screams, "SPIT IT OOT, YA BASTARD!"
c.
Q: What do you call and Essex girl with two brain cells?
A: Pregnant
d.
Q: How many Germans does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Two, one to give the order that the bulb be changed and one to screw it in.
A (alternative): Ve are asking ze qvestions here!
e. Why Yelling At a Man Doesn't Work: What a woman says: "This place is a mess! C'mon,
you and I need to clean up. Your stuff is lying on the floor and you'll have no clothes to
wear, if we don't do laundry right now!" What a man hears: "Blah, blah, blah, blah,
C'MON, blah, blah, blah, blah, YOU AND I, blah, blah, blah, blah, ON THE FLOOR,
blah, blah, blah, blah, NO CLOTHES!"
As Alison Ross points out, without going into much detail, the butts of superiority jokes are
interesting in a socio-cultural perspective, because they reveal a great deal about the attitudes within
the society in question. In many superiority jokes, the social groups which are the butts are typically
referred to via a stereotype, often but not necessarily, a pathological stereotype. Here is an example:
(13)

My Jewish friend one time actually invited me over for Shabbat dinner one time... Friday
night... Yes, I went, I had a great time. I had... They gave me a matza ball. I ate it. It was
delicious. It was! They gave me a yarlmuke. I put it on. It was cool. Yeah. But it was weird,
because, as soon as I put on the yarlmuke, I started coming up with business ideas.
(Maz Jobrani)

This joke is based on a common Jewish stereotype in which the image of the greedy and shewd
Jewish merchant represents the entire category. While not depreciatory or malicious, Jobrani's
comment does present this stereotype feature as a slightly questionable or strange feature of the
Jewish social group.
The next joke pokes fun at Australians and the way they speak according to one of the
Australian stereotypes in Britain (in fact lectal patterns associated with social groups often become
the salient social category feature when the group becomes the butt in superiority jokes):
(14)

I'm trying not to swear too much. Do you know what I mean? I'm trying to, you know, curb
the language. Obviously, tele, woooh, and all that... which is tricky for me 'cause I just got
married to an Australian, and that's knacking it, because those people swear like you
wouldn't be... (members of audience start clapping)... Look at them clapping, already, over
there! '2You're fucking right, mate! Aw bloody 'eh, doogorrghatyawaah! 'Cause that's how
my wife talks.
(Ross Noble)

This is slightly more derogatory, and possibly based on a pathological stereotype, as it presents the
Australians' language use as inferior to that of the Brits.
The last joke operates with a number of well-known European stereotypes, pointing out both
agreeable and disagreeable features in the stereotypes:
(15)

Heaven is where the police are English, the cooks are French, the mechanics are German,
the lovers are Italian and everything is organized by the Swiss. Hell is where the police are
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Modern World
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Kim Ebensgaard Jensen


AAU, Almen Engelsk

German, the cooks are English, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and
everything is organized by the Italians.
The superiority aspect consists in the second part of the joke, where the weaknesses, according to
the stereotypes, are pointed out. The last part of the joke obviously involves pathological
stereotypes.
As the above jokes, as well as the ones in (12), should illustrate, superiority jokes reveal
something about the attitudes among social groups towards each other, and the stereotypes at play,
in the society in question. What happens is that superiority jokes set up a relationship in which the
the social group serving as the butt of the joke is construed as being inferior to the teller and tellee,
often highlighting one category feature of the stereotype representation a feature which is
typically considered to be one of the things that make this particular social group appear inferior to
the teller and tellee.
6.2 Typical butts
There appear to be two theories regarding the butts of superiority humor:

one in which it is held that superiority jokes, and language in general, reflect already
existing attitudes in society; here humor that ridicules social groups is believed not to
change anything
one in which it is held that superiority jokes, and language in general, help to form or
change attitudes in society; here humor that ridicules social groups is viewed negatively
because of its influence upon social relations

Very often, the butts of superiority humor are social classes which are typically considered to be of
an inferior social status, such as working class groups, ethnic minorities, religious minorities,
homosexuals, blondes and so on. Alison Ross points out that often these groups, while inferior, are
assigned some kind of power in the eye of the beholder, as they are considered to be a threat to the
feeling of security of the teller.
However, there are also many cases where powerful social groups, like politicians, lawyers,
upper class members and the like become the butt of superiority humor, as in the case of political
satire or upper class jokes. The idea here is that the joke-tellers are getting back at the powerful
classes, because the joke-tellers somehow feel that they have suffered, and by telling superiority
jokes, they bring down the powerful people to a level beneath themselves (by pointing out
disagreeable aspects of the stereotypes at play).
Finally, there is self-depreciating humor which is related to superiority humor, but by
placing one's own social class, or indeed oneself, in the role of the butt, one cannot be said to
assume superiority as such. Here is one example of that:
(16)

I'm originally from a little town in called... have you ever heard of Hickory? (audience
clapping) No way! I don't believe you. Hickory is okay, but, it's like one of them... I knew I
was destined to be, like, a redneck, you know, when your town's name contains the word
'hick'. Why don't the just name it 'Hillbillory'? Hey, welcome to 'Redneckory!' Grow out
your mullet and live in the 'Trailerparkory'.
(Jon Reep)

6. Psychic release theory


10

Modern World
Fall 2009

Kim Ebensgaard Jensen


AAU, Almen Engelsk

According to the psychic release theory, humor can, via the reaction of laughter, be used to give a
sense of release from the being overcome by negative emotions and pressure, such as fear of death,
sorrow caused by tragedy and so on.
Many humorous expressions which offer psychic release deal with topics that are otherwise
taboo in a given society, such as sex, death, and religion, or which deal with things that you are
normally not supposed to laugh at like certain historical events (e.g. holocaust, 9/11, incest,
handicaps, ethnic minorities and so on). Often, psychic release humor involves the use of tabooed
words like the four-letter words of English, as well as other tabooed or politically incorrect words.
Here are a couple of examples (and I must warn you this is hardcore stuff):
(16)

a. An old preacher was dying. He sent a message for his banker and his lawyer, both church
members, to come to his home. When they arrived, they were ushered up to his bedroom.
As they entered the room, the preacher held out his hands and motioned for them to sit on
each side of the bed. The preacher grasped their hands, sighed contentedly, smiled, and
stared at the ceiling. For a time, no one said anything. Both the banker and lawyer were
touched and flattered that the preacher would ask them to be with him during his final
moments. They were also puzzled; the preacher had never given them any indication that
he particularly liked either of them. They both remembered his many long, uncomfortable
sermons about greed, covetousness, and avaricious behaviour that made them squirm in
their seats. Finally, the banker said, "Preacher, why did you ask us to come?" The old
preacher mustered up his strength and then said weakly, "Jesus died between two thieves,
and that's how I want to go."
b. Clinton dies and of course goes straight to hell. When he gets there the Devil greets him
and offers him three ways to spend eternity. They go to the first door and the Devil shows
him Newt Gingrich, hanging from the ceiling with fire under him. Bill says "Oh no!
Thats not how I want to spend all eternity.......". They go to the second door. The Devil
shows him Rush Limbaugh chained to the wall being tortured. Bill says "Oh no! Not for
me!" They go to the third door. Behind it is Ken Starr, chained to the wall with Monica
Lewinsky on her knees giving him a blowjob. Bill thinks and decides, "Hmmm, looks
okay to me. Ill take it." The Devil then says, "Good. Hey Monica, youve been replaced."
c. And if you've seen the people they get on these adverts and sell you this stuff, you've
never seen more ropey-looking pikey fuckers in your life. These people could sell you
nothing else, sitting there on a piss-stained sofa under a stripped light with a fag on you
thinking 'if he can get a fucking loan I know I can'. (Marcus Brigstocke)

7. Concluding remarks
Humor is interesting as it reveals a lot about culture, social structures, trends, social attitudes, how
language works and so on. There are many ways to go if one wants to write about humor in a
project.

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