What Should be Done with the Dirty Joke

Elliott Oring (California State University, Los Angeles, emeritus)

There is a belief that “dirty jokes” present no theoretical problems. Evidence suggests, however, that they are not well understood at all. Several claims about dirty jokes are scrutinized in relation to a random sample of such jokes from Gershon Legman’s famous collection. The findings of experimental psychologists are also reviewed to gauge the extent to which they confirm the dominant hypothesis about their function. Ultimately, there is a need for folklorists to revisit dirty jokes in order to address basic questions concerning what such jokes are about and what their telling achieves.

Part of 04-15 Joy, Jokes, and Amusement, Friday, November 03, 8:30 am–10:00 am