Ethnic Humor by Don L. F. Nilsen and

Ethnic Humor by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen 1 Irish Humor at 2014 Correspondents Dinner: q=youtube+ethnic+humor&&view=detail&mid=DCFEBC474E634ED02506 DCFEBC474E634ED02506&rvsmid=794806B23EE17ACF7308794806B23E E17ACF7308&fsscr=-3300&FORM=VDFSRV

2 An Ethnic Crayon Joke 3 Another Ethnic Crayon Joke But its not a joke. 4 Humor is in all Cultures

Mahadev Apte observes, not only does humor occur in all human cultures, it also pervades all aspects of human behavior, thinking, and sociocultural reality; it occurs in an infinite variety of forms and uses varied modalities. 5 6

Anthropology vs. Folkore Elliott Oring says, Anthropology focuses on the concept of culture whereas folklore emphasizes the notion of tradition. Folklorists would confront humor because a number of the traditions they studiedtales, songs, proverbswere humorous. Indeed, jokes and other forms of humorous expression would come to be recognized as the preeminent forms of folkloric expression in contemporary urban society. 7

8 Ethnic Joke Targets Christie Davies says that those in the second column live on the geographical, economic, cultural or linguistic periphery of the peoples in the first column. The marginalized groups learn about the mainstream groups, but the mainstream groups remain ignorant of the marginalized groups. The joke tellers identify with the target groups and

see them as comically stupid versions of themselves. 9 Ethnic Joke Targets JOKER: TARGET: JOKER: TARGET:

America Australia Canada Brazil Colombia Denmark Egypt England Finland France Guatemala

Germany Greece India Poles Tasmanians Newfies Portuguese Pastusos Aarhusians Saidis Irishmen

Karelians Belgians Guitecos Ostfrieslanders Pontians Sikhs Iran Iraq Ireland Mexico Netherlands

New Zealand Pakistan Russia Scotland South Africa Spain Sweden Turkey Wales Turks Kurds

Kerrymen Yucatecos Belgians Maoris Sikhs Ukrainians Irishmen Afrikaners Gallegos Finns Laz Irishmen

10 Christie Davies 11 Christie Davies findings are consistent with A. R. Radcliffe-Browns findings: The best joking relationship between two groups is when the groups exhibit both attachment and separation, both

social conjunction and social disjunction. 12 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.

13 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.

14 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. 15

Ethnic Stereotypes: 16 HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROMGUANTANAMO BAY: 17 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. 18 INSIDERS VS. OUTSIDERS Why arent Jews concerned about the

abortion controversy? Because they dont consider a fetus viable until after it graduates from medical school. 19 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. 20 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 groups 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. 21 Jokes Most good joke-tellers do not memorize jokes. They simply remember the punch-line, the theme of

the joke and possibly a particularly good jab line or two. And then they reinvent the story each time it is told. 22 JOKE TARGETS Christie Davies says that 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. 23 Belgian, Canadian and French Stereotypes 24

Irish, Scottish and Jewish Stereotypes 25 German and Italian Stereotypes 26 Margaret Mead Derek Freeman writes that anthropologists need to know the cultures they are studying.

Margaret Mead did not speak Samoan and in large measure became a victim of the Samoan sense of humorwhat fun it must have been for lively young Samoans to deceive this tiny, pink, foolish American woman who was asking them silly questions. 27 The Samoans were playing a practical joke on Margaret Mead.

For example, she was deceived into thinking there was no rape in Samoa (which had a far higher incidence of that crime than most other societies). 28 STUFF WHITE PEOPLE LIKE: 29

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. 30

LARRY MINTZS 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) 31 RADIO ETHNICITY

During the golden age of radio, ethnic voices were fun to hear. One radio show which ran during the 1940s was named Allens 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 thats a joke, son! 32 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. 33 TARGETS OF ETHNIC HUMOR Christie Davies says that 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. 34 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. 35 Kingston responded, Sociologists have criticized me for not knowing myths and for distorting them. She explains that 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 dont understand that myths have to change, be useful or be forgotten. Like the people who carry them across oceans, the myths become American. 36 CONCLUSION

We must keep some basic principles in mind as we look at ethnic humor: Someone elses 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. 37 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. 38 We must also be aware that ethnic humor now has an edge it didnt 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. 39 The inscrutable Charlie Chans pidgin English disappeared from the airwaves and so did Tontos 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. 40 41 Heaven vs. Hell In heaven the French are the cooks,

In Hell the English are the cooks, The English are the police, The Germans are the police, The Italians are the lovers, The Swiss are the lovers, The Germans are the mechanics,

The French are the mechanics, And the Swiss run everything. And the Italians run everything. 42 In Conclusion 43


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