You must be joking: the sociological critique of humour and comic media

2009-12-04T16:57:15Z (GMT) by Suzanne Lockyer Michael Pickering
Recent work in the sociological critique of humour and comic media has challenged the notion that humour is an absolute good. In this article we review some of the most interesting work that takes humour seriously and addresses the difficult topic of whether there are ethical limits to humour and media comedy. We outline three main reasons for taking humour seriously and review some of the ways in which humour has been studied sociologically through a consideration of how British ‘alternative’ comedy directed the work of those interested in the limits of humour in relation to gender, race and ethnicity. We also summarise some of the most controversial examples of contemporary media comedy – the comedic performances and personae of Sacha Baron Cohen (Ali G and Borat) and the Danish cartoons of the Holy Prophet Muhammad – in order to illustrate the importance of the critical analysis of humour and how the ethics of humour can be applied to comic media.