What is called ‘joking’?


Rowan Atkinson, whose portrayal of Blackadder in my youth gave me a lot of simple pleasure, is dead wrong to support Boris Johnson. The distinction between a joke and a non-joke is an important one and can only be defined from the standpoint of reception.

A joke is something said by a comedian, or one assuming the role of comedian, to an audience, who, anticipating an ironic register, will find humour and wit in the imagery of the said and then laugh it away.

A joke is not a statement confected by a politician in front of a media poised for political statements, and then widely reproduced as a newsworthy and actionable incitement for constituents to base their political behaviour upon, or to reproduce as if it were an attitudinal model intended for adoption. The word for that is propaganda.

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