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The Survival of an Erasmus Student in Italy

25 Nov

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You must be joking…

13 Apr

Andrew McEwan

“Jokes are a way of maintaining regional, national and international identities”

The Simpsons' favourite Scot - Groundskeeper Willie

So an Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman walk into a bar, and the barman looks up and goes, “What is this, some kind of joke?” All three leave the bar instantly, as they’ve had enough of that response and walk down the road to the next one. As they enter, the barman looks up and says “What is this? Some kind of demarcation of identity across cultural, geographical and individual boundaries?”

Excuse me?

 To consider this properly, we need to go back to what the first barman said. He mentioned “jokes”. Jokes are brief, packaged moments of human experience and thought stripped down and streamlined for optimum delivery. Though short, they have plenty to say. They reveal what the teller finds funny, how good their sense of humour is (my friends all agree that mine is in need of radical improvement, “dad-like” being a phrase I hear often), how they perceive their audience and how willing they are to test the boundaries of social decorum. In short, they are but one way amongst many to construct an individual identity in a group. But what about the even bigger picture? Are jokes capable of accomplishing a similar feat on a regional and national level? The second barman seems to think so. To explore this, I want to focus on not the structure of the joke or how it is told, but the subject; who or what exactly the teller is choosing to make a joke out of. Continue reading