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The Funniest Pages

International Perspectives on Humor in Journalism

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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 Seven: Words! Wisdom! Gibberish!: Verbal Irony in Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72

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← 92 | 93 →CHAPTER SEVEN

Verbal Irony in Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72

HENDRIK MICHAEL

Gonzo checked out with a bang when Hunter S. Thompson took his own life in February 2005. Instead of focusing on Thompson’s long-standing writing career, however, various media outlets created obituaries that shed more light on his legacy as ‘a professional troublemaker’ and ‘a complex walking monument to misbehavior’ (Gibney 2008). In contrast, this chapter argues that Thompson, contrary to his public image, should be primarily understood as a political journalist whose peculiar methods of reporting are not just play and pranks but a serious journalistic experiment of writing about politics.

It was Kurt Vonnegut who claimed that Thompson, ‘the most creatively crazy and vulnerable of the New Journalists’ (1985: 231), had been suffering from a widespread and fatal disease. To Vonnegut, Thompson was its eponym; he called it ‘Hunter Thompson’s Disease’ (ibid.: 235). Ultimately, this is a political disease. It stems from the hopeful aspirations of the 1960s that ended abruptly in 1968. That year marked the decade’s watershed, turning a hyper-political youth into a generation disenchanted with politics (Gitlin 1993). As an aspiring writer and professional reporter who had already made a name for himself with his highly publicized immersion reporting on the Hell’s Angels in 1966, Thompson was as much disappointed with politics as he was with journalism. Journalism’s information monopoly and repertoire of forms could possibly mediate politics to the public,...

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