Archive for February 22nd, 2012

February 22, 2012

Gallows Humor

life of brian

Gallows humor is a type of humor that still manages to be funny in the face of, and in response to, a hopeless situation. It arises from stressful, traumatic, or life-threatening situations, often in circumstances such that death is perceived as impending and unavoidable. The genre developed in Central Europe, and then moved to the US as part of Jewish humor. Gallows humor is offered by the person affected by the dramatic situation, an aspect that is missing in the derivative called black comedy. It is rendered with the German expression ‘Galgenhumor,’ and is comparable to the French ‘rire jaune’ (‘sickly smile’), and the Belgian Dutch ‘groen lachen’ (‘laugh desperately’). Italian comedian Daniele Luttazzi discussed gallows humor focusing on the particular type of laughter that it arouses, and said that grotesque satire, as opposed to ironic satire, is the one that most often arouses this kind of laughter.

In the Weimar era Kabaretts, this genre was particularly common; Karl Valentin and Karl Kraus were the major masters of it. Sigmund Freud in his 1927 essay ‘Humour (Der Humor)’ puts forth the following theory of the gallows humor: ‘The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to let itself be compelled to suffer. It insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world; it shows, in fact, that such traumas are no more than occasions for it to gain pleasure.’ Gallows humor has the social effect of strengthening the morale of the oppressed and undermines the morale of the oppressors. ‘To be able to laugh at evil and error means we have surmounted them.’

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February 22, 2012

Blue Comedy

archie bunker

lenny bruce by jr williams

Blue comedy is comedy that is off-color, risqué, indecent or profane, largely about sex. It often contains profanity and/or sexual imagery that may shock and offend some audience members. ‘Working blue’ refers to the act of performing this type of material. A ‘blue comedian’ or ‘blue comic’ is a comedian who usually performs blue, or is known mainly for his or her blue material. Blue comedians often find it difficult to succeed in mainstream media.

Many comedians who are normally family-friendly might choose to work blue when off-camera or in an adult-oriented environment; Bob Saget exemplifies this dichotomy. A recording survives of one Masquers roast from the 1950s with Jack Benny, George Jessel, George Burns, and Art Linkletter all using highly risque material and, in some cases, obscenities. In the 1970s, CBS aired the ground-breaking sitcom ‘All in the Family,’ based on the British series ‘Till Death Us Do Part,’ which featured a ‘lovable’ bigot, Archie Bunker. The character’s dialogue usually contained racial prejudices and ethnic slurs, as well as derogatory comments against Jews, gays and women’s rights, but in a guise of blue humor against his own bigotry.

February 22, 2012

Black Comedy



A black comedy is a comic work that employs black humor or gallows humor. The definition of black humor is problematic; it has been argued that it corresponds to the earlier concept of gallows humor (humor that still manages to be funny in the face of, and in response to, a hopeless situation); and that, as humor has been defined since Freud as a comedic act that anesthetizes an emotion, all humor is ‘black humor.’ The term ‘black humor’ (from the French ‘humour noir’) was coined by the Surrealist theoretician André Breton in 1935, to designate a sub-genre of comedy and satire in which laughter arises from cynicism and skepticism, often relying on topics such as death.

In black humor, topics and events that are usually regarded as taboo, specifically those related to death, are treated in an unusually humorous or satirical manner while retaining their seriousness; the intent of black comedy, therefore, is often for the audience to experience both laughter and discomfort, sometimes simultaneously.

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February 22, 2012


piigs by robert ariail

PIGS is a pejorative acronym used to refer to the economies of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain which are facing a financial crisis.

Since 2008, the term has included Ireland, either in place of Italy or with an additional I. Some news organizations have limited or banned use of the term because of criticism regarding perceived offensive connotations. The term has been used since at least the mid-1990s as an epithet.