Re: Why ethnical jokes?

Stephen Barnard (
Sat, 28 Sep 1996 07:49:58 -0800 wrote:
> >I have wondered why there are ethnical jokes? Is there any theory on
> >this matter?
> >I appreciate all type of countribuations both if you address me to
> >some works or if you simply put your idea under this thread.
> >Thanks
> >Mojtaba
> I do not think there is any 'established' theory on the existence
> of ethnical jokes. I come from a family which has a very distinct ethnic
> background. And time and again, I do hear dad saying something 'funny'
> about mom's people (which mom doesn't usually take it as a joke) & vice-versa.
> Usually, the jokes are either about their own respective physical features
> (eg. long ears) and their language (especially how they pronounce certain phrase).
> It could also be due to their historical backgrounds (eg. how they were borught
> up, how they ate, walk, talk, social status). There are many other reasons
> why ethnical jokes emerge but IMO, none are as prominent as the notion of "Us" being
> more 'better' than "Them".

It seems like there is an implicit assumption at work that "ethnic" joke
is equivalent to "bad" joke. No doubt there is a form of mean-spirited
ethnic joking that is not nice at all, but ethnicity has been used as a
rich topic for humor. Many great comedians are "ethnic" comedians, and
they usually make jokes about their own ethnic background.

The problems seem to arise when someone jokes about someone else's
ethnic background, but I've heard that done in a good-natured and funny
way, too. When it's successful it typically involves some degree of
self-deprecation. (I imagine Woody Allen's bits about Gentiles.) It's
a pretty tricky and delicate thing to pull off, and probably shouldn't
be attempted by amateurs in front of people whom you don't know really

Steve Barnard