American humor  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

American humor refers collectively to the conventions and common threads that tie together humor in America. It is often defined in comparison to the humor of another country - for example, how it is different from British humour or Canadian humour. It is difficult to say what makes a particular type or subject of humor particularly American.

Humor usually concerns aspects of American culture, and depends on the historical and current development of the country's culture. The extent to which an individual will personally find something humorous obviously depends on a host of absolute and relative variables, including, but not limited to geographical location, culture, maturity, level of education, and context. People of different countries will therefore find different situations funny. Just as American culture has many aspects which differ from other nations, these cultural differences may be a barrier to how humor translates to other countries. Some critics say American humour is "vulgar and strange".

Among Constance Rourke's most notable books is American Humor: A Study of the National Character, which was first published in 1931.


General features


One leading analysis of American humor, the 1931 book American Humor: A Study of the National Character by Constance Rourke, identified the character of the “Yankee” as that first American comic figure, the first widely accepted American character that the nation could find funny, make fun of and even export for the amusement of the world - a gangly traveler who told stories, played elaborate practical jokes, was ingenuous, sly, perhaps uneducated. She reports that American comedy sprang forth after the American Revolution, when the country was “freed from the worry of self preservation” and its citizens began to regard themselves as “works of art."

Types of humor

American humor might also be distinguished by its most common type of humor, for example, more slapstick and physical comedy. There is less emphasis on understatement, and so the humor tends to be a little more open; rather than satirizing the social system through exaggeration, American humor prefers more observational techniques.


The United States has many diverse groups from which to draw on for humorous material. The strongest of these influences, during the 20th century at least, has been the influx of Jewish comedians and their corresponding Jewish humor, including some of the most influential: The Three Stooges, The Marx Brothers, Rodney Dangerfield, Jackie Mason, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, and Lewis Black, just to name a few. Also significant is African American humor, as it has some differences from Black British humor, developing as it did out of the rather more painful history of blacks in the United States. These differences are likely due to the individual histories and origins of the two communities.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "American humor" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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