Image of Veronika Fuechtner

Killer Jokes: The Lasting Laughter of German Humor on Colonialism and Slavery

A Newhouse at Home Presentation by Veronika Fuechtner
Apr 28, 2021, 1–2:15 PM
Free and open to the public

How does the evolution of humor shift over time? When does controversial humor become socially acceptable, and when does it cease to be acceptable? Newhouse Center fellow Veronika Fuechtner (Dartmouth College) offers an explanation.

German humor has such a profoundly bad reputation that even the idea of it has served as the butt of many jokes. One might think of Monty Python’s Killer Joke as effective warfare against the Germans, or of Mark Twain’s painful experience of the Awful German Language, which helped cement the stereotype that Germans are neither very good at producing nor at appreciating humor.

While Fuechtner’s project discusses many examples of the genre, it doesn’t answer the question of whether German humor might be funny. Instead, it explores when and why humor on controversial topics becomes socially acceptable, and when and why it ceases to be acceptable: how does the evaluation of humor shift over time and how do communities of laughter constitute, disband or go undercover? Fuechtner engages these larger questions using visual humor on colonialism and slavery as it relates to dramatically shifting politics of the nation, gender and race from the 19th through the 21st century. Her project thus subscribes to the notion that humor is never universal or based on automatic reactions, but always historically and culturally contingent and contextual.

This event is free and open to the public. Please click here to register.

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