Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On Self-Depreciating Jokes

It's somehow acceptable for a person to make fun of his own race or culture, but when an outsider makes jokes of the same thing, it's suddenly racist or offensive. We find it to be good humor when we joke about our nation, but feel defensive if a foreigner supplies the same material. That's some double standards there. Are jokes really non-transferable?

Might it be because there are two possibilities, that of a joke being in good jest, and that of it being offensive to some degree? And, since one cannot conceivably (or at least, sanely) have reason to raise a joke to offend oneself, it must therefore be interpreted that the joke was intended for the purpose of humor. A religious joke told by a man of the faith cannot possibly have a malicious intent, and hence must be meant to invoke humor; whereas the same joke by a different purveyor might have the slightest possibility of being told in ill will, and it is this slightest possibility that mars the joke.

Another explanation, perhaps simpler, is that it is acceptable to laugh at yourself, but not to be laughed at. Thus, the person who tells the joke is important, and depends on whether he is an insider or an outsider. Is it then possible to reduce this phenomena to mere in-group/out-group dynamics? It seems trite, though.

1 comment:

Benedict said...

The first explanation is good. The second is a non-explanation which, upon further examination, leads to the first explanation (or other yet undiscussed possibilities)