This book is a wide-ranging introductory academic book for students and teachers interested in studying comedy on film, television and radio (and for anyone else with an analytic interest in these media). It discusses key issues around comedy through analysis of significant and revealing comedy texts from these media. The first part of the book looks at how comedy works. In order to do this, it considers the nature of comedy as manifested in specific media forms, from the exploitation of the non-visual in radio to the familiar, domesticated settings suited to television's small screen. It examines the historical, industrial and cultural contexts in which British and American comedy in film, radio and television developed (in that order). The book also deals with gender, sexuality and comedy, ranging from the depictions of femininity and masculinity in romantic comedy film to the representations offered of gay and lesbian characters across our chosen media. Studies of low British comedy and American gross-out comedy underpin work on specific examples which directly challenge standards of taste and cultural taboos. Whatever the nature and effect of racial and ethnic humour, it is clear that there have been some significant shifts in the ways in which radio, television and film comedy have presented or inflected it over time. The book deals with broad case studies of British and American culture.
Humour and narrative control on stage with Ayşe Şahin
humour either causes the opponent’s downfall or
confirms it. This is perhaps one of the oldest theories of humour and the basis on
which many philosophers, beginning with Plato, condemned humour and laughter as being the tools of the weak and the malicious. This was due in part to viewing laughter and humour as one and the same thing and failing to acknowledge
that not all laughter has to be directed at another person. Still, this undoubtedly
continues to be a major aspect of humour today, especially in racial and ethnichumour, as I will detail further below.
all racial and ethnichumour as malignant is, according to commentators
such as Davies 1990 ) and Berger ( 1993 ), to misunderstand the ways in which comedy works and suggest
that there can be a healing, restorative function of racial and ethnichumour. Their approach has its origins in Freud’s theories which
suggest that many jokes are motivated by hostile aggression, which is
that was to carry over into his radio shows. Though rejecting the rather
crude ‘ethnichumour’ common in vaudeville, especially
amongst Jewish performers, Benny told jokes that centred on stinginess.
He was not above telling ‘cheap Scotsmen’ jokes that were
fashionable during the 1920s, such as the one that asked ‘what is
the difference between a Scotsman and a coconut?’, the answer
being that ‘you can
comedy can have tangible consequences, particularly for the unlucky victims
and targets of a comic’s stand-up routine.
In his monograph, On Humour , Simon Critchley suggests
that ‘Ethnichumour is very much the Hobbesian laughter of superiority
or sudden glory at our eminence and the other’s stupidity’, 59 and admits that ‘Perhaps
one laughs at jokes one would rather not laugh at … As such the
very relativity of humour might
Evening Post (3 June 1840) Cork.
39 See a number of examples in: K. Barclay, ‘Singing and lower-class masculinity in
the Dublin Magistrate’s Court, 1800–1845’, Journal of Social History, 47:3 (2014),
40 ‘Dublin Police’, Belfast Newsletter (26 December 1828) Dublin.
41 ‘Dublin Police’, Freeman’s Journal (30 April 1842) Dublin.
42 ‘Athy Petty Session’, Dublin Morning Register (26 June 1830) Kildare.
43 S. Critchley, On Humour (London: Routledge, 2002); J. Boskin and J. Dorinson,
‘Ethnichumour: Subversion and survival’, American Quarterly, 37
next chapter, these debates rage most fiercely
around racial and ethnichumour. Generally though, it is clear that
humour and comedy are not necessarily transferable, even across cultures
which share much in common. Although US-produced films and, to a lesser
extent, television comedy, occupy considerable British screen-time, not
all US television comedies succeed in the UK (see Chapter 5 ). Conversely, despite their success in