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The Funniest Pages

International Perspectives on Humor in Journalism


Edited By David Swick and Richard Lance Keeble

Charles Dickens, celebrated novelist and journalist, believed that his greatest ability as a writer was to make people laugh. Yet, to date, humor has been strangely marginalized in journalism, communication and media studies.
This innovative book draws together the work of seventeen writers to show that, starting in the 1640s during the English Civil War, and continuing through to the present time, humor has indeed been an important ingredient of journalism. Countries studied include Australia, Britain, Canada, Chile and the United States. The Funniest Pages is divided into four sections: «Seriously Funny, From Past to Present,» «Unsolemn Columnists,» «This Sporting Life» and a final section, «Have Mouse, Will Laugh,» which looks at humor in online journalism. Chapters examine Joseph Addison, Richard Steele and the birth of social and political satire; Allen Ginsberg, Mad magazine, and the culture wars of the 1950s; John Clarke and the power of satire in journalism, and more.
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Chapter Three: Travel Writing and Humor: From Dickens and Twain to the Present Day


← 38 | 39 →CHAPTER THREE

From Dickens and Twain to the Present Day


So what about travel writing? This genre of journalism has existed on the fringes for many years. But now, as it gains more legitimacy and prominence (see Baine Campbell 2002; Thompson 2011; Youngs 2013), perhaps it is worth looking at how travel writing as a form of journalism utilizes humor to open up places, experiences and cultures.

While humor as a feature of travel writing has undoubtedly become more prominent in the 21st century, so have its gimmicks. This chapter could focus on the glut of travel writers who now use humorous devices to transform what would otherwise be conventional travel journeys into something of the absurd: see Tony Hawks’s Round Ireland With a Fridge (1998) or Peter Moore’s Spanish Steps: Travels with My Donkey (2005) as examples of these. It will, instead, look at the early travel writing of Charles Dickens (1812–1870) and Mark Twain (1835–1910) alongside two modern travel writers with their own distinct and enduring styles: P. J. O’Rourke for his black humor and willingness to cross boundaries, and Bill Bryson for his popularity and use of anecdotes within humorous narratives.

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