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Sick Humor

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

Sick humor can be described as humor that breaks social conventions as to what it is appropriate to joke about. The New Oxford Dictionary of English defines sick humor as “having something unpleasant such as death, illness or misfortune as its subject and dealing with it in an offensive way.” Likewise, Harvey Mindess, Carolyn Miller, Joy Turek, Amanda Bender, and Suzanne Corbin (1985) see sick humor as being about death, disease, deformity, and the handicapped. These definitions complement each other but also need to be completed by including jokes about the human tendency toward cruelty. Sick humor is often perceived as “tasteless,” macabre, or morbid. Research literature doesn't draw a clear distinction between sick humor and black humor. The New Oxford Dictionary of English’s ...

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