American Humor and Satire: Functions and Forms
December 7-9, 2017
December 7, Thursday, 12.00 Lecture Hall 232
Plenary Opening Session
1. Professor Yassen Zassoursky
RSACS President, President of Journalism Department,
Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia
Greetings to the Conference participants
2. Professor Irwin Weil
Evanston IL, USA
From Mark Twain to Jokes over the Hot Stove – a stroll through American Humor
Mark Twain had a profound notion about the irregularities, disparities, and laughable nature of American Life, Religion, and Pretensions.
American anecdotes, many of them in the Twain tradition, know how to send up our national and personal pretensions: from politics to religion, from medicine to psychiatry, from legal life to the after-life in both heaven and hell.
3. Professor Pavel Balditsyn
Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia
Traditions of American Humor from Mark Twain to Woody Allen and Jon Stewart: Continuity and Changes
Initially there were two extreme trends in the American humor from the times of Benjamin Franklin: the first is pursuit of established and true facts and drive for serious social and moral thought and criticism; the second is exuberant fantasy and wild grotesque imagery in tall tales of the frontier and romantic extravaganzas of Washington Irving and Edgar Poe. Mark Twain was the perfect master of both extremes and combined them in his works: he did it in a short letter on St. Patrick; he wrote at the same time phantasy of a young Satan making miracles and political pamphlets versus tyranny, chauvinism, and imperialism. Therefore, he was generally recognized as the maker of the American comic tradition.
The American culture developed as open and responsive to many world traditions, and its character was plural and complementary from the beginning of the 19th century. Mark Twain followed not only Shakespeare and Franklin but also Cervantes and Voltaire, he knew his direct precursors – tall tales and works of literary clowns of the South-West. In the age of multiculturalism the American humor absorbed new elements especially of Afro-American and Jewish laughter notably in cinema, and stand-up comedy in the halls and on TV.
Staginess and visual appeal were important features of the American humor from the times of Mark Twain: comic speech was mainly vernacular and used extralinguistic means – facial expression, gestures, tone, intonation, and persona at last. This drift increased in the last century when humor expanded into new visual arts – cinema and TV , performed in media culture with its collective authorship and industrial creation. Artemus Ward and Mark Twain did their work single-handed, Woody Allen and Jon Stewart work in groups of coworkers. For example, Jon Stewart made his satirical news program The Daily Show with more than 30 co-authors. It is impossible to host a comic show 4 days a week and 42 weeks in a year otherwise.
Polyphony and dialogism are the main patterns of fiction and humor of Mark Twain and contemporary American comic writers and showmen. They try to debate and travesty the traditional and authoritative discourse. Limits of tolerance changed greatly from the times of Mark Twain, but the burden of humor remains as ever: laughter breaks social rules and moral standards. Its backbone is to say the truth and reject all lies in contemporary society under any circumstances.
Section 1: Journalism (coordinator Dr. Yuliya Balashova, Saint-Petersburg State University, Russia)
1. Yuliya Balashova
Saint-Petersburg State University, Russia
Historical Dynamics of the American Almanacs Development in Global Context
Especially important for intercultural communications are those media which are not compromised by propaganda or ideological battles. The almanac as a type of publication is this kind of media. Historically, almanacs were widespread in the USA, as in many countries in Europe and Asia. A comparison of the historical path of the almanac’s development in the United States with other countries gives reason to make a conclusion about the particular pragmatism of the American culture in the whole. This feature manifestation is the almanacs satirical variety development in the United States.
2. S.V. Kanashina
MGIMO, Moscow, Russia
Internet Meme as a Modern Comic Genre in the USA
The development of information technologies and the emergence of the Internet have led to the evolution of traditional comic genres in the USA. A unique cultural phenomenon – internet meme – appeared within American internet communication 15 years ago (see picture 1). Broadly speaking the internet meme is an internet communication phenomenon consisting of verbal (textual) and non-verbal (visual) components and having a special square design. It is typical of internet memes to be humorous, topical, expressive, and the humor is often original and goes beyond the bounds of all the conventions. To convey humor the authors of internet memes use different means, for example, pun, allusion, grotesque, absurd. Different real facts of American life, famous people, events of social importance are laughed at in internet memes. Thus the internet meme can be regarded as a modern comic genre in the USA which keeps the tradition of independent and authentic American humor.
3. Irina Arkhangelskaya
Higher School of Economics -Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Political Discourse of the US Late Night Comedy Shows of the 2000-2010s
The US Late Night Comedy Shows give politicians opportunities to present their programs, strengthen the existing image, or ruin a negative stereotype. TV humor-shows make it possible to reach the audiences that are not much aware of politics, young people being among them.
The role of Comedy Central‘s projects: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (2000 – 2015) and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (2015 – present), in forming the political agenda are being analyzed in the report.
The style, themes, approaches to picking up guests and interviewing them of The Daily Shows’ are compared with those in The Late Show with David Letterman (2000 – 2015) and The Tonight Show with David Leno (2000 – 2014).