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The Funniest Pages

International Perspectives on Humor in Journalism


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 Sixteen: Twitter and the Revitalization of Black Humor in Journalism


← 232 | 233 →CHAPTER SIXTEEN


Overnight shifts are usually endured, not enjoyed. On the evening of 7 March 2014 I was in Toronto, a few hours into an overnight shift presenting and editing the hourly radio news across Canada for the CBC. My lone companion was the technician/associate producer Noel de Guzman, a veteran of the overnights. The shift, given its eight-hour duration and the blurring of one day into the next, offered no epiphanies about humor or life.

Then tragedy struck. Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, heading from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, disappeared. Malaysia Airlines lost contact with the international passenger flight, carrying 227 passengers, about an hour after takeoff (BBC News 2015b; Harjani 2014). Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had scheduled a press conference for 8 March, which was early morning in Eastern Standard Time. From the newsroom, Noel and I awaited the press conference and tried to monitor news sources to remain updated on the story. But the prime minister did not appear at the scheduled time. Concern built up on Twitter as people wondered what was going on. That prompted one person to write: ‘Oh no, the prime minister’s gone missing too.’

This remark, dark and biting, revealed two important truths. One is that Twitter serves the social good by providing a platform for black humor. The second truth is that individual tweets sharply bypass the journalistic myth of objectivity, especially its treating horrible governments, people and ideas...

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