A1 Journal article (refereed)
Smash and Laugh : A philosophical analysis on the relationship between humour and violence (2020)

Hietalahti, Jarno (2020). Smash and Laugh : A philosophical analysis on the relationship between humour and violence. Comedy Studies, 11 (1), 36-46. DOI: 10.1080/2040610X.2019.1692545

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Hietalahti, Jarno

Journal or series: Comedy Studies

ISSN: 2040-610X

eISSN: 2040-6118

Publication year: 2020

Volume: 11

Issue number: 1

Pages range: 36-46

Publisher: Routledge

Publication country: United Kingdom

Publication language: English

DOI: http://doi.org/10.1080/2040610X.2019.1692545

Open Access: Publication channel is not openly available

Additional information: Special issue on Violent Clowns


This article focuses on the relationship between humour and violence from a philosophical perspective. It is necessary to analyze different forms of violence and humour to understand in which ways humour can be violent and violence humorous. This will be done through a rigorous conceptual analysis based on both classical and modern philosophers. Humour is understood in the light of incongruity theory (e.g. Raskin 2008) as an umbrella concept for various subgenres of humour, like farce, satire, irony, tomfoolery, pranks etc. Laughter refers to laughter triggered by humour, and not, for instance, by tickling or intoxication. Because this special themed journal issue focuses on clowns, they will have a special role in this paper, too. How is it possible that clowns, the epitomes of humour and bringers of joy, can do the most horrible deeds? In the article, clowns will be treated as an embodiment of humour and champions of the peculiar relationship between violence and humour. The main argument is that clowns reveal the inherent violent nature of humour in various ways. The term ‘clown’ is understood in its broadest manner. It includes besides jocular circus clowns, also sad clowns, ancient ‘ritual clowns’, as well as hospital clowns and evil clowns of popular fiction. Clowns are treated as a symbol which means that actual professional clowns are left aside from this analysis. In short, this article is first and foremost a conceptual analysis motivated by an empirical phenomenon. The guiding questions are, what it means if humour is violent or if violence is humorous.

Keywords: humour; violence (activity); social philosophy; critical theory; cultural criticism; clowns

Free keywords: humour; violence; social philosophy; critical theory; culture criticism

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2020

Last updated on 2020-09-07 at 23:13