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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 Nine: Deadly Funny: How John Diamond Used Humor to Tackle the Taboo Subjects of Cancer and Dying


← 124 | 125 →CHAPTER NINE

How John Diamond Used Humor to Tackle the Taboo Subjects of Cancer and Dying


This chapter will examine how humor is employed defensively by writers who are processing/performing trauma and how they mediate the crisis to a reading public by using wit as a coping strategy. It will largely focus on John Diamond’s C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too (1998a), which draws on his journalism columns, and look at the ways in which he uses humor during a health crisis and what consolation, if any, this offers him and his readers. It is, indeed, amazing that he can still be ‘funny’/witty when his tongue has been surgically removed and his prognosis is terminal. The chapter will show how Diamond uses humor in writing about traditionally taboo and uncomfortable topics that do not typically sell papers—such as life-threatening illness and pending death.

In one of her essays, ‘On Being Ill,’ Virginia Woolf humorously (and hyperbolically) raises the subject of the representation of illness as a discursive practice:

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