Ashley Judd, Fortune-Cookie Feminist | Main | Enemy of the State
February 26, 2013

The Social Negotiation Process of Humor

Specifically, humor at someone else's expense. Mild-mannered humor or self-deprecating humor doesn't need this sort of a negotiation.

I've talked about this before but never this clearly.

Laughter can be modeled as a three-party game in which the parties bargain for inclusion in a two-party coalition (wit and listener) that excludes the third (the butt). No one party can dictate what is risible. Instead, the selection of butts is a matter of negotiation between wit and listener. The wit proposes a butt for laughter, and this offer may be accepted by the listener through a return of laughter or rejected through silence. In such a laughter exchange, individuals may be seen to trade off butts through implicit agreements about who is risible. These bargains determine what counts as a comic vice...

I've mentioned that while the joke-teller (the "wit") is free to make any joke he likes, only the listeners, in concert with him, can decide together that the joke works or is funny or that the target is a valid one (and targeted for the right reasons).

Sometimes people will propose just "joking about how dumb Obama is," and while I agree he is kind of dumb, I don't see that as a likely avenue for widespread transmission of the idea. Too many people would disagree that that's a valid target, and hence, wouldn't laugh. And hence, while the joke may work for a smaller audience (engaged conservative partisans) it would fail at the purpose for which it is deployed (shifting the conventional wisdom of the public).*

Even though it wasn't humorous, I'm pretty confident a similar social bargaining principle underlay Romney's frequent statements that "Obama is a nice guy, but he's in over his head." I think he believed (and polling would back him up) that Obama was adjudged a "nice guy" by 55% of the public, but only a minority had confidence in his ability to do the job to which he was elected. Ergo, he made the case upon which Obama was vulnerable and avoided the case which would be more difficult.

This post is very apropos given that leftists around the blogosphere are right now claiming "I just don't see why Michelle Malkin's funny dances are funny." Well, the media -- which swears it's not liberal -- doesn't understand how anything at all about Obama or liberalism could possibly be funny. They don't agree that these things have any "comedic vice" in them at all to be valid targets of joking.

Thus, the stone-faced act.

* There's also a misguided anti-racism that thwarts such a joke. Too many people would automatically think "Gee I can never say a black person is dumb, that would be racist" without pausing to consider the more sophisticated idea that that itself is racially condescending -- that such a "rule" that black folks can never be, for reasons best left unsaid, treated Just Like Everyone Else, is itself a bit racist.

Obviously you wouldn't want to have to explain that in the middle of your joke!

digg this
posted by Ace at 01:18 PM

| Access Comments

Recent Comments
publius, Rascally Rapscallion (Mzdiz): " Ol' Buddy once remarked that the smell of shit ..."

publius, Rascally Rapscallion (Mzdiz): " Funny story of my youth. A guy named "Buddy" w ..."

SFGoth: "Well, time to take the garbage and recycling out. ..."

publius, Rascally Rapscallion (Mzdiz): " Yeah, sorry m, that was just a short link of th ..."

m: "Ah, I see that the Project Veritas link is to a on ..."

redc1c4 *OTUS Zhou Bai-Din Cheated & we all know it [/b] [/i] [/s] [/u]: "But the conclusion is these vaccine have no effect ..."

m: "186 Latest Project Veritas video is out. See a P ..."

publius, Rascally Rapscallion (Mzdiz): " At the country level, there is a slight *posit ..."

publius, Rascally Rapscallion (Mzdiz): ">> Something else going on. Indeed. The poin ..."

Berserker-Dragonheads Division: "Well, I finally broke down and watched the cult cl ..."

Miley, the Duchess, #SuperStraight #maskless (Mzdiz): "Imagine watching TV, and when all of the drug adve ..."

Sharkman: "Which beats the alternative. Posted by: m ..."

Recent Entries

Polls! Polls! Polls!
Frequently Asked Questions
The (Almost) Complete Paul Anka Integrity Kick
Top Top Tens
Greatest Hitjobs

The Ace of Spades HQ Sex-for-Money Skankathon
A D&D Guide to the Democratic Candidates
Margaret Cho: Just Not Funny
More Margaret Cho Abuse
Margaret Cho: Still Not Funny
Iraqi Prisoner Claims He Was Raped... By Woman
Wonkette Announces "Morning Zoo" Format
John Kerry's "Plan" Causes Surrender of Moqtada al-Sadr's Militia
World Muslim Leaders Apologize for Nick Berg's Beheading
Michael Moore Goes on Lunchtime Manhattan Death-Spree
Milestone: Oliver Willis Posts 400th "Fake News Article" Referencing Britney Spears
Liberal Economists Rue a "New Decade of Greed"
Artificial Insouciance: Maureen Dowd's Word Processor Revolts Against Her Numbing Imbecility
Intelligence Officials Eye Blogs for Tips
They Done Found Us Out, Cletus: Intrepid Internet Detective Figures Out Our Master Plan
Shock: Josh Marshall Almost Mentions Sarin Discovery in Iraq
Leather-Clad Biker Freaks Terrorize Australian Town
When Clinton Was President, Torture Was Cool
What Wonkette Means When She Explains What Tina Brown Means
Wonkette's Stand-Up Act
Wankette HQ Gay-Rumors Du Jour
Here's What's Bugging Me: Goose and Slider
My Own Micah Wright Style Confession of Dishonesty
Outraged "Conservatives" React to the FMA
An On-Line Impression of Dennis Miller Having Sex with a Kodiak Bear
The Story the Rightwing Media Refuses to Report!
Our Lunch with David "Glengarry Glen Ross" Mamet
The House of Love: Paul Krugman
A Michael Moore Mystery (TM)
The Dowd-O-Matic!
Liberal Consistency and Other Myths
Kepler's Laws of Liberal Media Bias
John Kerry-- The Splunge! Candidate
"Divisive" Politics & "Attacks on Patriotism" (very long)
The Donkey ("The Raven" parody)
Powered by
Movable Type 2.64