Black Humor

black humor, in literature, drama, and film, grotesque or morbid humor used to express the absurdity, insensitivity, paradox, and cruelty of the modern world. Ordinary characters or situations are usually exaggerated far beyond the limits of normal satire or irony. Black humor uses devices often associated with tragedy and is sometimes equated with tragic farce. For example, Stanley Kubrick's film Dr. Strangelove; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1963) is a terrifying comic treatment of the circumstances surrounding the dropping of an atom bomb, while Jules Feiffer's comedy Little Murders (1965) is a delineation of the horrors of modern urban life, focusing particularly on random assassinations. The novels of such writers as Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Joseph Heller, and Philip Roth contain elements of black humor.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Black Humor: Selected full-text books and articles

American Dark Comedy: Beyond Satire By Wes D. Gehring Greenwood Press, 1996
The Black Comedy of John Guare By Gene A. Plunka University of Delaware Press, 2002
Toward the Poetics of Surrealism By J. H. Matthews Syracuse University Press, 1976
Librarian's tip: Discussion of black humor begins on p. 88
Between Two Worlds: The American Novel in the 1960's By Sanford Pinsker Whitston, 1980
Librarian's tip: Chap. II "The Graying of Black Humor"
Rebellious Laughter: People's Humor in American Culture By Joseph Boskin Syracuse University Press, 1997
Librarian's tip: Discussion of black humor begins on p. 87
Semites and Stereotypes: Characteristics of Jewish Humor By Avner Ziv; Anat Zajdman Greenwood Press, 1993
Librarian's tip: Chap. 1 "The Schlemiezel: Black Humor and the Shtetl Tradition"
Encyclopedia of 20th-Century American Humor By Alleen Pace Nilsen; Don L. F. Nilsen Oryx Press, 2000
Librarian's tip: "Black Humor" begins on p. 46
Jokes and Their Relation to the Uncanny: The Comic, the Horrific, and Pleasure in Audition and Romero's Dead Films By LeDrew, Stephen PSYART, January 1, 2006
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