Multicultural American Humor

Usually, when we think of multiculturalism, we are trained to think in terms of “tolerance” or “tolerating differences.” And yet, to stop with “tolerance” can actually serve to increase social and cultural divisiveness. Humor is one way that people in many cultures attempt to cross boundaries, to understand and celebrate what makes each community unique. At the same time, the ambiguity of humor and its intended audience can expose inequities and inconsistencies, both within the community and in its relation to other communities or to society at large. We laugh at ourselves, at each other, and with each other: each interaction presents its own risks and raises its own set of questions. It is a risky endeavor, not one for the faint at heart, but the potential rewards are strong.

This semester, I decided to let my students take an even bigger risk, to write their own creative humor pieces and essays, not just for the classroom but for a broader audience here on Humor in America.  Each writer has chosen to share a creative humor piece or an essay written about the texts we read together, texts drawn from America’s rich multicultural tradition of humor.

Beginning in late November or early December, the links below will take you to the fruits of their effort.  Some of them are laugh-aloud funny, others quietly wry or drily ironic.  Enjoy the laughter — and the fresh insights.

Mitchell Beeland, “The Five-Second Theory in all of its absurdity
The last piece of cake drops to the floor–what’s a girl to do?

Grace Cooksey, “Ode to the Two-Faced Loser”
How do you respond when the stranger on the corner tells you that you’ll burn in hell?

Carlye Reynolds, “It’s Not Family Dinner Without a Fight”
Holiday meals and politics — can they mix?  “Potatoes served as cannonballs. . . . ”  

Kendall Trammell, “What’s Great about Having a Black Friend”
“Gettin’ crunk” and “turnin’ up,” the perks are just beginning

Ryan Artman, “Curiosity Hurts”
Advertising slogans can be dangerous in the wrong hands:  folks, don’t try this at home

Katherine Vaux, “The Trail Breakdown”
Through-hiking the Appalachian Trailit’s more than just blisters and mosquitoes

Falak Lalani, “Borderline Personality Disorder”
Being Paki and being American: “sometimes, it’s a little hard to explain,” especially when people think Pakistan is in India. . . .

Sarah Palmer, “The MRS. Degree”
Can the perfect man “make your chemistry homework more bearable”?

Kiara Rodriguez, “If You Can’t Join Them, Beat Them”
As a child, moving to a new country often means you are the “new outcast” — how do you find your place?

Coming soon:

Tiffany Treece, “What College Does to People”
The innocent moments — that’s where it all starts to go wrong. . . .

and many more . . . .




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