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Oksana Villeda

Nicole Warlich

English 100


Essay 1 Rough Draft

In the Rhetoric of Humor, In the article, “Native American Stand-up Comedy.” It’s

fascinating to know that comedian’s objectives are more than just to make people laugh, they

also use their humor to influence others to acknowledge the true realities of what goes on in the

world today. Using humor, especially irony and sarcasm, it helps advocate critical thinking to

open debates about serious situations that are not discussed openly. Often, a comedian may use

topics such as racial inequalities in their act to spread awareness on racism.

Take Comedian Dave Chapelle for example, in his show, “The Chapelle’s show,” he

exemplifies humor as a tool of social advocacy in response to the climate and the historical

legacy of racism in the United States. In this quote, he states, “The only way you can know where

the line is, is if you cross it.” And it is true, in order to spread awareness on an issue, you have

to push boundaries, you have to make the people uncomfortable. It’s the only way that makes

people think because it forces them to look in the mirror and confront the realities that we’d

usually prefer to ignore.

In the article, “Perspectives on Comedy and Performance as Radical Disability

Activism,” The writer has chosen comedy and humor as a way of bonding with an audience to

promote critical thinking and dialogue around the meaning of disability. He talks about the

unemployment rates of people who suffer with impairments and disabilities and explains how

Nicole Warlich
Source? The specific source of this quote needs to be cited

Nicole Warlich
Be sure to give the essay itself a title (not the title of the assignment). No italics or underline on title

Nicole Warlich
Thesis statement? I’m having a hard time identifying a specific thesis statement in this draft. Be sure that the last sentence of the introduction paragraph directly answers the question of the prompt

Nicole Warlich
Don’t summarize the text in the topic sentence of a body paragraph. Introduce your claim. What specific point of argument in support of your topic sentence will be proven in this body paragraph?

Nicole Warlich
Confusing paragraph development. It seems like you have two introduction paragraphs here instead of just one. The second paragraph is also focused on introducing your topic/point, not proving it. Remember that you should have one introduction paragraph introducing your topic/argument and that contains your thesis and every body paragraph should directly prove your thesis statement

Nicole Warlich
This paragraph reads like an introduction paragraph, not a body paragraph. If you keep this content in your essay, it should be part of the introduction paragraph, not a body paragraph. Body paragraphs should directly prove your thesis statement. This paragraph is more focused on summary and on introducing the topic

Nicole Warlich
don’t underline or italicize quotes

Nicole Warlich
italicize name of tv show. No italics

Nicole Warlich
name the author

Nicole Warlich

Nicole Warlich
There should be no extra space between the title and first paragraph

[Last Name] 2

low it is. Even though it’s a serious cause of concern, he uses comedy because it enables him as a

performer to cross these types of boundaries, just like how Dave Chapelle does when he uses his

comedy to express the realities of racism.

John Morreal, who is a founder of the International Society for Humor Studies comments

in this article how social bonding is created by humor and laughter. (67) In this article he also

states that, “This social bonding seems to work especially well when the humor is based on

either some strength in the group or some shortcoming in opponents of the group,” meaning that

laughter forms divisions as well as bonds between people. Laugher can form bonds between

people because we look up to people who are funny. Someone who has a good sense of humor

appears intelligent, trustworthy, and just a down to earth and ideal person to be around. A good

comedian who has all those qualities can be very influential as well. Humor presents an

important pillar in influencing the development of society as a whole. Humor is just one of the

many common forms of human communication and social interaction, so it is clear how its social

character, although not always evident, plays an important role in shaping society.

In the article, “When the Truth Hurts, tell a joke,” Stephen Rosenfield, a founder and

director of the American Comedy institute in New York City states that, “Comedians don’t start

out to change the world, but in the end, that’s what they do,” he also states, “Comedians are

aware of the power of jokes to change societies, but they’re not necessarily idealistic about it. A

comedian’s first concern is to find funny material. That is his job.” Which is true, their main goal

is to make you laugh but also open your mind up to off limit topics as well.

It reminds me when I attended my very first live stand-up comedy performance. I was

about eight-teen years old. I’m not really sure who the comedian was, But I remember a bit of his

comedy skit. He spoke about many topics but one particular topic he highlighted on the most,

Nicole Warlich

Nicole Warlich

Nicole Warlich
Don’t cite evidence in the topic sentence of a body paragraph. Your claim needs to be introduced in the topic sentence before you can effectively cite evidence to support your claim

Nicole Warlich
You’re on the right track here, but you want your argument to be more thorough and specifically focused. It’s hard to follow your analysis in these paragraphs because you’re lacking a specific claim (as a thesis or as a focus of body paragraphs). Without a focus on your specific claim, it’s not clear to the reader what you’re proving or how you’re proving it

Nicole Warlich
So far in this draft, you’re overly focused on summary. Remember that your task isn’t to summarize the ideas from the articles. You should be coming up with your own claim (your answer to the question of the prompt- your thesis) and proving it using the evidence (quotes from the articles) to support you. Remember that topic sentences of body paragraphs should not be focused on summary of the articles

Nicole Warlich
Run-on sentence
do” (citation). He

Nicole Warlich
Don’t summarize or narrate in topic sentences of body paragraphs. Introduce your claim. Remember that your task is to prove an argument, not to tell a story or summarize

Nicole Warlich

Nicole Warlich

Nicole Warlich
What article? Introduce the source

Nicole Warlich
This body paragraph is focused on summary of the article, not proving your claim. Remember that a body paragraph should never be focused on summary of a text/source. State YOUR claim in the topic sentence of a body paragraph, cite evidence to support your claim, then explain how that evidence supports your claim/proves your thesis.

Nicole Warlich
This is summary. Your focus should be on analysis. Thoroughly explain what these quotes prove (your thesis) and how they prove it

[Last Name] 3

was about homophobia. At first a lot of people in the audience were shocked, including myself. I

was thinking, “Wow, he really went there.” as he was easing the audience in with each joke,

which seemed almost nerve wrecking, he finally got to the punch line. At the end of the skit, he

said, “Now. I’d like you all to meet my HUSBAND, Kevin.” The whole room exploded in

laughter, almost no one saw that coming. Greg Giraldo, a Harvard Law School graduate who

turned comic states, “A good joke provides tension, and then, release of that tension. You build

the tension by saying things that are controversial. The release is the laugh. The bigger the

surprise or insight in your joke, the bigger the laugh.” I couldn’t agree anymore with that

statement, what makes all of this work is the laugh. If it’s funny, people can treat heavy content

lightly, no matter what the topic is.

In conclusion, humor is and will always be a social concept. It is also evolving as well.

Every single day humor is impacting and changing the attitudes within our society and it

becomes evident as its exposure in our lives constantly grows. For example, we can simply scroll

through any social media platform and see thousands if not millions of photos that are called

“Memes” and we can relate to them. They’re countless themes of comic humor that surround us

and one way or another, it does shape our lives. It’s going to take a while longer before people

start accepting the differences of humor, but the positive changes are greater and more evident

every day. A simple quote by Erma Bombeck states, “When humor goes, there goes

civilization.” meaning, life without humor would be meaningless, empty, and a hell of a lot more


Nicole Warlich
But what does this prove? This paragraph is overly focused on telling a story, not explicitly proving your claim (thesis). This example from personal experience can be effective in supporting your claim, but it needs to be structured correctly as evidence. Remember that evidence should not be the focus of a body paragraph – your analysis (explanation of how/why the evidence proves your thesis) should be

Nicole Warlich
Good point!

Nicole Warlich
This is a strong conclusion paragraph! It engages the reader and reinforces/wraps up your points well without being overly repetitive

[Last Name] 4

Works Cited

Boyle Kirk, The Rhetoric of Humor, “Native American Stand-up Comedy.”

Boyle Kirk, The Rhetoric of Humor. “Perspectives on Comedy and Performance as

Radical Disability Activism,”

Richards Ryan, Cohen Roger, “When the Truth Hurts, tell a Joke: Why America Needs

Its Comedians”

Nicole Warlich
Kirk Boyle is not the author. Review how to cite a source in an anthology (an edited book) using the handouts and materials provided in the modules. Let me know if you have questions about how to cite these sources (right now, the citations are incorrect)

Nicole Warlich
Cohen, Roger & Ryan Richards



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When the Truth Hurts, Tell a Joke: Why America Needs Its Comedians

Roger Cohen and Ryan Richards

“Humor is a rubber sword – it allows you to make a point without drawing blood.”
-Mary Hirsch, Humorist

In perhaps his most famous sketch, African-American comic Dave Chappelle plays Clayton Bigsby, a blind white supremacist who has never learned that he’s black. In one scene, Bigsby rants about hating African Americans: “First of all they’re lazy, good for nothin’ tricksters, crack smokin’ swindlers, big butt havin,’ with their wide noses breathin’ all the white man’s air. They eat up all the chicken, they think they’re the best dancers, and they stink.  Matter of fact, my friend Jasper told me one of them coons came by his house to pick his sister up for a date.  He said ‘look here n*****, that there is my girl. If anyone is going to have sex with my sister it’s gonna be me!’”

Many people see comedy like this as merely funny, but there’s more there than just a laugh.  Beneath the humor lies a rich layer of social commentary about race relations in the United States.

While comedians will make everyone uncomfortable at some point, good comics are playing an important function in society by holding up a mirror and forcing us to confront realities that we would often prefer to ignore.

For minority groups, humor also serves as a tool to neutralize the power of stereotypes that obstruct their path to equal participation in society.  Stand-up comedy can give social critique and instigate transformation in a way that leaves many audience members wanting more.

Comedy, especially stand-up comedy, regularly draws criticism for being offensive and for perpetuating negative stereotypes. This, however, is a sign of a healthy comedy culture because it means that comedians are pushing social boundaries. Stories and expressions that are normally unacceptable are met with laughter and agreement when they are told on stage. The fact that the content is encrusted in humor is like a sugar coating to bitter medicine. The laugh takes away the sting.

“Comedy is a tradition with deep historical roots,” explains Dr. Cynthia Merriwether-de Vries, a sociology professor at Juniata College who specializes in humor, music and popular culture. “Evidence of jokes based on race and other groupings can be traced back at least as far as ancient Europe, with court minstrels mocking the stench of the Visigoths. We have memos from Medieval Europe warning that a certain jester’s jokes about the Habsburgs were going too far and beginning to affect political relations.”

In today’s America, the minstrel still performs his duty, only now his audience has expanded from kings and courtiers to the general public.  Venues such as Comedy Central, a cable television station dedicated exclusively to humor, have gained an enormous viewership in recent years.  Proof of the prominence of comedy in popular culture has been the enormous success of Dave Chappelle’s Show on Comedy Central, which has sold more DVDs than any television show in history.

Most of American comedy has its roots in the stand-up routine.  Nearly all of the great comics of television, Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, David Letterman, and Jamie Foxx, to name a few, started their careers as stand-up comics.  Characteristic of a stand-up act is its fast string of amusing stories, short jokes, one-liners, and the occasion of spontaneous interaction with the audience.  Normally, the stage contains nothing more than the microphone, a stool, and perhaps a glass of water.

Pedophilia and Other Taboo Subjects

What makes stand-up comedians worthy of research is that their search for laughter leads them to seek out, explore, and articulate the unspoken taboos of society.  Much like Adam Smith’s observation in the eighteenth century that “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest,” it is through the comedian’s selfish pursuit of the laugh that society receives its social critique.

“Comedians don’t start out to change the world, but in the end, that’s what they do,” says Stephen Rosenfield, founder and director of the American Comedy Institute in New York City, where he teaches aspiring comedians the art of writing and performing comedy.  “Comedians are aware of the power of jokes to change societies, but they’re not necessarily idealistic about it.  A comedian’s first concern is to find funny material. That is his job.”

“Ninety-five percent of white people and ninety-five percent of black peole live on different planets. They don’t speak the same language. They don’t interact. They’re not comfortable around one another. That’s fucked up.”

“A good joke provides tension, and then, release of that tension,” says Greg Giraldo, a Harvard Law School graduate turned comic who hosts Comedy Central’s Friday Night with Greg Giraldo show.  “You build the tension by saying things that are controversial. The release is the laugh. The bigger the surprise or insight in your joke, the bigger the laugh.”

This anatomy of tension and release ensures that the comic is going to discuss material that is at the fringe of what polite society will talk about. There’s plenty of controversy to confront, says Giraldo, enjoying a meal of sushi after a Tuesday night appearance at the Comedy Cellar in New York’s Greenwich Village. “A lot of racially charged shit happens here in New York City. Yet mainstream culture likes to pretend that race issues don’t exist. Ninety-five percent of white people and ninety-five percent of black peole live on different planets. They don’t speak the same language. They don’t interact. They’re not comfortable around one another. That’s fucked up. It’s the sad reality of our culture. Unfiltered honest talking on race is rare, but comics are comfortable with race. Comics are honest.”

No taboo is too sensitive to talk about, no matter how controversial, as long as the comedian is funny, says Giraldo.  “When I started doing comedy, people said: never do jokes on cancer or suicide. Well, as far as cancer goes, it’s not true. My dad died of cancer and I’ve made jokes about that.  And pedophile jokes, I do lots of them.  It’s like with pornography, you know a good joke when you see it. Nothing is off-limits if handled properly.”

Removing the Sting from Stereotypes

“I know what the people in power say about my community and I’ll say it myself…[t]his doesn’t give me power necessarily, but it destabilizes their power.”

Minority groups have long used comedy to get the American mainstream to accept them for who they are. “There’s a pattern in stand-up comedy,” says Rosenfield from the American Comedy Institute. It starts with certain groups or minorities – immigrants, blacks, women, old people, Jews, Muslims, gays, Arabs, Asians – being the target of stereotypical jokes. In response, people from the target group will start doing stand-up comedy themselves. When the audience sees one of these new comedians on stage, talking about themselves with a sense of humor, they begin to recognize how dimensional the stereotyped group is. “If they know how to make us laugh, there’s a connection, a cultural cross-over. The original stereotype will start breaking down, making it harder to perpetuate.”

By playing on stereotypes, minority comics undermine the potency of the prejudices.  “I know what the people in power say about my community and I’ll say it myself,” states Merriwether-de Vries.  “This doesn’t give me power necessarily, but it destabilizes their power. It takes away their ability to use that stereotype against me.”  Merriwether-de Vries points to Jackie ‘Moms’ Mabley, an African American comic popular in the nineteen-fifties and sixties. “She made fun of old black women and domestics, never wore a bra, accentuated her droopiness, and made fun of the fact that she had no teeth. In short, she played upon the stereotypes of what was wrong with black women.” Merriwether-de Vries goes on to argue that by making those jokes, Mabley was taking ownerships over the stereotypes. They had become a source of fun, instead of being a source of power over the African American community.

It’s a classic tactic, of course. Trip over a rug, and you better be the first to make fun of yourself. If you’re not, someone else will. Richard Pryor, the godfather of contemporary stand-up, used this brilliantly in his performance Richard Pryor Live on Sunset Strip (1982). Pryor jokes about the highly publicized incident in which he set himself on fire while freebasing cocaine, an event in later years he admitted was a suicide attempt.  “Y’all gave me a lot of love when I was not feeling well,” Pryor says.  “Also, y’all did some nasty-ass jokes on my ass too.”  He then lights a match and waves it around. “What’s this?” he asks. “It’s Richard Pryor running down the street.”

No Laughing Matter?

Although comics might think any subject is fair game for comedy, there are critics who argue that jokes can seriously backfire. This critique even comes from within the comedy business itself.  Comedian Bill Cosby, famous for his clean and gentle brand of comedy, is known to oppose the use of the word ‘n*****’ in comedy.  He considers it ‘cheap linguistic pandering.’  Charles Grodin, an actor and former commentator for 60 Minutes II and host of the CNBC talk show The Charles Grodin Show, has criticized jokes about minorities, gays, and Jews. “They perpetuate stereotypes. If you don’t think so, just look at the anti-Semitism and racism still around.  We can’t afford to laugh at certain things. Pedophilia jokes just aren’t funny.”

An often cited example of comedy perpetuating racial stereotypes is a routine from Chris Rock’s Bring the Pain (1996) show, called ‘Niggers vs. Blacks.’ “I hate niggers,” Rock says.  “You can’t have anything valuable in your house. Niggers will break in and take it all! Everything white people don’t like about black people, black people really don’t like about black people. It’s like our own personal civil war. On one side, there’s black people. On the other, you’ve got niggers. The niggers have got to go. I love black people, but I hate niggers. I am tired of niggers. Tired, tired, tired.”

Giving weight to the claim that routines like Rock’s are damaging can be seen in the embrace of the jokes by racists., the world’s largest white nationalist website, has a thread dedicated to Rock’s comedy sketch. “It is just about good enough to be used by us,” says a user who identifies himself as Firestone. “It’s a lot more pc to be able to quote a racist black man than it is to quote a white man.”  White supremacist groups view Rock’s routine as affirmation of their views on African Americans and the one-liners on ‘niggers’ from Rock’s routine are often quoted.  “Everything he said about “niggers” was true,” says another post. “And all blacks in the hall were laughing their asses off.  What morons.”

On one level, these remarks show that comedy can reinforce stereotypes. Not everyone is a white supremacist, but for those who are, maybe this sketch will strengthen their prejudice. But, on a deeper level, the sketch shows early signs of provoking the ‘cultural cross-over’ mentioned by Rosenfield.  As questionable as Rock’s distinction between ‘niggers’ and blacks may be, at least these white supremacists are starting to appreciate the multi-dimensionality of a stereotyped group and experience the cognitive dissonance of quoting and appreciating the opinion of a black comedian.

Both Giraldo and Rosenfield are aware of the pitfalls comics face.  “Just doing racial stereotype jokes is bad,” says Giraldo.  “It’s making the joke to get the laugh for the wrong reasons.”  Rosenfield argues that the material won’t be funny unless it rings true to the audience and consciously teaches his students not to bash.  “If you say that men stink, that they really smell bad, that’s just bashing.  It’s based on things that the audience knows aren’t true.”  Instead, Rosenfield urges his students to be specific.  “Don’t paint with a broad brush.  Root it in specifics.  Be real.”

The Cycle Continues

America needs its comedians to start conversations about taboo subjects it’s afraid to confront.  We also need stand-up comedy as a venue for minorities to challenge the assumptions of mainstream society.  What makes all of this work is the laugh.  If it’s funny, people can treat heavy content lightly.

In the end, the only meaningful criticism a comedian faces is a silent audience.  “If people are laughing, night after night, who cares?” says Rosenfield.  “It’s a comedian’s job to go too far. Otherwise he’s not fulfilling his functions.  Comics are the court jesters.  There has to be that outlet for the unspeakable to be spoken in a way that’s acceptable.  If you’re not offending someone, you’re not doing your job.”

While comedians will make everyone uncomfortable at some point, good comics are playing an important function in society by holding up a mirror and forcing us to confront realities that we would often prefer to ignore.

The need for good stand-up comedy is ever renewing, as demographics and social concerns cause new rifts and stereotypes in American society.  In response to the anti-Muslim climate in the United States since the September 11th terrorist attacks, several Muslim stand-up comedians have started touring the country. “They haven’t crossed over to mainstream culture yet,” says Rosenfield, “but they will transform the perception of American Muslims as a group.  Think of it, people just don’t perceive Muslims as being funny.  Now that will change.”

And they are pretty funny.  Take the opening line of comic Azhar Usman, of the “Allah Made Me Funny” tour. “Assalam Aleikum,” he says.  “For those who don’t know what that means, I’ll explain it to you.  It means: ‘I’m gonna kill you.’”

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