Laughing Fit to Kill: Black Humor in the Fictions of Slavery by Glenda Carpio

By Glenda Carpio

Reassessing the meanings of ''black humor'' and ''dark satire,'' Laughing healthy to Kill illustrates how black comedians, writers, and artists have deftly deployed quite a few modes of comedic ''conjuring''--the absurd, the gruesome, and the strategic expression of racial stereotypes--to redress not just the prior injustices of slavery and racism in the United States but in addition their legacy within the current. targeting representations of slavery within the post-civil rights period, Carpio explores stereotypes in Richard Pryor's groundbreaking stand-up act and the outrageous comedy of Chappelle's Show to illustrate how deeply indebted they're to the sly social feedback embedded within the profoundly ironic nineteenth-century fiction of William Wells Brown and Charles W. Chesnutt. equally, she finds how the iconoclastic literary works of Ishmael Reed and Suzan-Lori Parks use satire, hyperbole, and burlesque humor to symbolize a violent historical past and to tackle problems with racial injustice. With an abundance of illustrations, Carpio additionally extends her dialogue of radical black comedy to the visible arts as she finds how using subversive appropriation by means of Kara Walker and Robert Colescott cleverly lampoons the iconography of slavery. eventually, Laughing healthy to Kill bargains a different examine the daring, complicated, and simply undeniable humorous ways in which African American artists have used laughter to critique slavery's darkish legacy.

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Laughing Fit to Kill: Black Humor in the Fictions of Slavery

Reassessing the meanings of ''black humor'' and ''dark satire,'' giggling healthy to Kill illustrates how black comedians, writers, and artists have deftly deployed quite a few modes of comedic ''conjuring''--the absurd, the ugly, and the strategic expression of racial stereotypes--to redress not just the earlier injustices of slavery and racism in the US but additionally their legacy within the current.

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What do you mean by noble? Why, suh, you looks just like a lion. Why, Pompey, where have you ever seen a lion? I saw one down in yonder field the other day, massa. Pompey, you foolish fellow, that was a jackass. Was it, massa? 7 Examples of similar stories abound. A story about Nehemiah, a clever slave who had a reputation for avoiding work with his wit and humor, could easily be used to support the stereotype of the lazy slave, but it also illustrates the disarming power of laughter. Nehemiah is transferred from one master to another because of his ability to outwit his owners but is finally sold to David Wharton, the cruelest of slave masters in southwest Texas, who vows to “make the rascal work”: The morning after Nehemiah was purchased, David Wharton approached him and said, “Now you are going to work, you understand.

23 Stereotypes fascinated Brown. Although they were (and are) too often used to deny the humanity of his brethren, Brown knew that they could also be used as the means to freedom. ”24 It is this aspect of Brown’s humor that critics like Farrison fail to address. ”26 In April of the same year, Brown read The Escape in Seneca Falls, New York, after which a reporter wrote, “If you want a good laugh, go and hear him. ”27 Humor, as these comments suggest, enhanced not only instruction but also engagement.

By “Our Nig,” signifies on the cruel humor that was used to humiliate slaves since colonial times. Noting the names that were imposed upon the enslaved, Joseph Boskin writes that there is “no question that one of the most insidious aspects of slavery was its oppressive humorous effects, names being one link in the larger design. . ’ Similarly, females were termed ‘Fiscal Fanny,’ ‘Lies,’ ‘Paddle,’ ‘Present,’ . . 19 “LAFFIN’ FIT TER KILL” 33 Wilson employs satire both in its more conventionally perceived function, as a mode to inspire reform, and as a way to achieve some distance from her rage at the violence done to her.

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