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AFRICAN-AMERICAN HUMORSee also PowerPoints on “African-American Language” and “Ethnic Humor”: 

AFRICAN-AMERICAN HUMOR See also PowerPoints on 'African-American Language' and 'Ethnic Humor' by Alleen Pace Nilsen and Don L. F. Nilsen


FEATURES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HUMOR Extensive Word Play Punning Signifying Verbal Put-Downs Mocking of Enemy’s Relatives Chanting of Ridicule Verses Bent-Knee Dancing Admiration for the Trickster Verbal Quickness and Wit (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 14)


AMOS AND ANDY During the 1930s the Amos and Andy radio show starred white actors doing blackface comedy. It was the most popular of all radio shows. When the show moved to TV in 1951, African Americans were hired as performers. (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 15)


In 1953 Amos and Andy became so controversial that the producers put together a politically correct version. It lost its zing, and was cancelled. By today’s standards, the show was racist and stereotyped. However, Joe Franklin said that the Blacks on the show may have 'prepared the ground for the acceptance of real blacks in the American cultural mainstream.' (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 15)


DAVE CHAPELLE In a 2004 comedy sketch, Dave Chapelle played the role of a blind white supremacist who was not aware that he was black. He shouts out the derogatory N-word to a group of white teens listening to loud rap music.


'Realizing that they have been called 'niggers,' the group immediately exchange high-fives and revel in their new found social status' (Belois 12-13)


BLACKFACE COMEDY Before there was vaudeville in America, there were the blackface minstrel shows. Both whites and blacks used burnt cork to blacken their faces. The most famous African American blackface performer was Pigmeat Markham. When audiences and critics demanded that the burnt-cork performances end, they were astonished to find that Pigmeat Markham was actually darker than the makeup he had used (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 52).


!THE FUNKY JUDGE Pigmeat Markham starred in dozens of burlesque sketches, including one in which he played the world’s funkiest judge. When he came into the courtroom, everyone on stage would say, 'Here come de Judge.' This line later was repopularized by Sammy Davis Jr., and Flip Wilson. (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 15)


!!DICK GREGORY Dick Gregory said that America is the only country in the world where a man can grow up in a ghetto, go to really bad schools, be forced to ride in the back of the bus, and then get paid $5,000 a week to tell people about it. (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 16)


!!!JIMMY WALKER Jimmy Walker asked his audience, 'When was the last time you seen a Black embezzler—or a Black man getting busted for juggling the bankbooks?' 'I mean, what’s the use of having a Black brother on the Supreme Court if none of us can commit a crime classy enough to get it tried there? (Nilsen andamp; Nilsen 17)


References # 1: Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York, NY: Random House, 1969. Belois, Nathan. 'The Evolution and Function of Ethnic Humor.' Tempe, AZ: ASU LIN 515 Research Paper, May 1, 2006. Boskin, Joseph. Sambo: The Rise and Demise of an American Jester. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1986. Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African American Literary Criticism. New York, nY: Oxford Univ Press, 1988. Lhamon, W. T. Raising Cain: Blackface Performace from Jim Crow to Hip Hop. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998. Lott, Eric. Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1993.


References # 2: MacDonald, M. Fred. Blacks on White TV: Afro-Americans in Television since 1948. Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall, 1983. Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L. F. Nilsen. Encyclopedia of 20th Century American Humor. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. Stone, Lauri. Laughing in the Dark: A Decade of Subversive Comedy. New York, NY: Ecco, 1997. Watkins, Mel. On the Real Side: Laughing, Lying and Signifying. 1994.

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