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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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Afterword: Putting Fun into the Curriculum

← 266 | 267 →Afterword


Putting Fun into the Curriculum


Journalism can spark a range of responses: we may be outraged, irritated, intrigued, pleasantly entertained, inspired to action, offended, profoundly saddened or heartened—and so on. Much academic debate draws from the intellectual analysis, celebration and critique of the content and meanings (both hidden and overt) of news media. Yet how often do we respond to wry wit or droll irony with a smile, or to a hilarious joke with laughter? Intriguingly, little academic discussion of print and online media—and, indeed, media in general—has highlighted the pleasure of reading or the humor of the text. Our main purpose here has been to do precisely that, to focus on the funniest pages—drawing on the research of an impressive group of international academics.

Humor writing also rarely features in university journalism programmes. It’s difficult to know precisely why. Are journalism academics particularly serious? Hardly. Writing wittily is, certainly, difficult—but that should not be a turn-off for students and their tutors.

Mark Leiren-Young has the rare privilege—and pleasure—of running a module (called ‘Finding the Funny’) on journalism and humor at the University of Victoria, Canada. He warns that humor travels to controversial, sensitive areas many academics may wish to avoid: ‘It’s a minefield. I opened my first class on humor with a blanket warning that at some point in the term I expected there to be...

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