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Joke Cycles

  • By: Bill Ellis
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

A joke cycle is a folk process in which a group of short jokes, typically in riddling or one-liner format, are circulated and told as a group rather than as individual items. The topics of joke cycles often are those that are socially forbidden in polite conversation, such as ethnic and gender stereotypes. They also emerge in the wake of topical news stories, especially those dealing with tragic or catastrophic events. Some of these jokes remain popular for several years, but the life span of most cycles is quite short, often only a few months or even weeks. Because they often appear to present offensive or callous opinions, they are often seen as “sick” or at least a sign of sociopathic attitudes among those who ...

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