Humour has a unique way of delineating social boundaries, and comedy can function as a double-edged sword; it can strengthen bonds and bring people together, or divide through provocation and violation of social norms. As a consequence, humour controversies are telling events that contain the possibility of highlighting cultural and political sensibilities – even more in the current political landscape, with increasing media fragmentation. This study analysed four humour functions through the theoretical lens of media framing, via three cases of humorous content that caused controversies in the Swedish news media. These cases were one divisive radio roast of a politician, one TV satire segment that was received as racist, and one audio podcast with young women who challenged a Swedish political consensus climate. Framing is the power of media to select and highlight certain aspects of issues, and by extension, shape public opinion. By subjecting the media coverage of these three controversies to a qualitative content analysis, the framing was examined and discussed in the light of four humour functions: identification, clarification, enforcement, and differentiation (Meyer 2000). Furthermore, the study examined the media context and the role it played in the framing of the controversies. One main finding was that the most uniting humour function of identification could be transformed into the most dividing humour function of differentiation through a shift in media context.
Aalberg, T., Strömbäck, J. & De Vreese, C. H. (2011). ‘The framing of politics as strategy and game: A review of concepts, operationalisations and key findings’. Journalism 13 (2), pp. 162-178.
Abel, A. D. & Barthel, M. (2013). ‘Appropriation of mainstream news: How Saturday Night Live changed the political discussion’. Critical Studies in Media Communication 30 (1), pp. 1-16.
Ammitzbøll, P. & Vidino, L. (2007). ‘After the Danish cartoon controversy’. Middle East Quarterly 14 (1), pp. 3-11.
Apte, M. L. (1985). Humour and Laughter: An Anthropological Approach. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Attardo, S. (1994). Linguistic Theories of Humour. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Attardo, S. (2008). ‘Semantics and pragmatics of humour’. Language and Linguistics Compass, 2 (6), pp. 1203-1215.
Basu, S. (1999). ‘Dialogic ethics and the virtue of humour’. Journal of Political Philosophy 7 (4), pp. 378-403.
Bell, N. & Attardo, S. (2010). ‘Failed humour: Issues in non-native speakers’ appreciation and understanding of humour’. Intercultural Pragmatics 7, p. 423.
Bell, N. D. (2009). ‘Responses to failed humour’. Journal of Pragmatics 41 (9), pp. 1825-1836.
Berger, A. A. (1999). An Anatomy of Humour. New Brunswick: Transaction.
Billig, M. (2005). Laughter and Ridicule: Towards a Social Critique of Humour. London: Sage.
Borah, P. (2011). ‘Conceptual issues in framing theory: A systematic examination of a decade’s literature’. Journal of Communication 61 (2), pp. 246-263.
Bruun, H. (2012). ‘Political satire in Danish television: Reinventing a tradition’. Popular Communication 10 (1-2), pp. 158-169.
Bryant, J. & Miron, D. (2004). ‘Theory and research in mass communication’. Journal of Communication 54 (4) pp. 662-704.
Chapel, G. W. (1978). ‘Humor in the White House: An interview with presidential speechwriter Robert Orben’. Communication Quarterly 26 (1), pp. 44-49.
Dahl, J. M. R. (2019). ‘From the club stage to the national scene: How mass media interpreted two comedians as important immigrant voices’. Javnost – The Public 26 (2), pp. 210-224.
Davidsson, P., Palm, M. & Melin Mandre, Å. (2018). Svenskarna och Internet 2018. Retrieved 25 May 2019 from https://internetstiftelsen.se/docs/Svenskarna_och_internet_2018.pdf
Davies, C. (2008). ‘The Danish cartoons, the Muslims, and the new battle of Jutland’, in: Lewis, P., Davies, J. C. H., Kuipers, G., Martin, R. A., Oring, E. & Raskin, V. (eds.), ‘The Muhammad cartoons and humour research: A collection of essays’. Humour: International Journal of Humour Research 21 (1), pp. 2-7.
De Vreese C. H., Peter, J. & Semetko, H. A. (2001). ‘Framing politics at the launch of the Euro: A cross-national comparative study of frames in the news’. Political Communication 18 (2), pp. 107-122.
De Vreese, C. H. (2005). ‘News framing: Theory and typology’. Information Design Journal & Document Design, 13 (1), pp. 48-59.
Douglas, M. (1999). Implicit Meanings: Selected Essays in Anthropology. London: Routledge.
Duncan, H. D. (1962). Communication and Social Order. New York: Bedminster Press.
Ekström, M. & Johansson, B. (2008). ‘Talk scandals’. Media, Culture & Society 30 (1), pp. 61-79.
Entman, R. M. (1993) ‘Framing: Toward clarification of a fractured paradigm’. Journal of Communication 43 (4), pp. 51-58.
Hallahan K. (1999). ‘Seven models of framing: Implications for public relations’. Journal of Public Relations Research 11 (3), pp. 205-242.
Hariman, R. (2008). ‘Political parody and public culture’. Quarterly Journal of Speech 94 (3), pp. 247-272.
Hellström, A., Nilsson, T. & Stoltz, P. (2012). ‘Nationalism vs. nationalism: The challenge of the Sweden Democrats in the Swedish public debate’. Government and Opposition 47 (2), pp. 186-205.
Higgie, R. (2017). ‘Public engagement, propaganda, or both? Attitudes toward politicians on political satire and comedy programmes’. International Journal of Communication 11, pp. 930-948.
Jones, J. P. (2013). ‘Parody, performativity, and play’. A Companion to New Media Dynamics, pp. 396-406.
Kessel, M. & Merziger, P. (2012). The Politics of Humour: Laughter, Inclusion, and Exclusion in the Twentieth Century. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Klausen, J. (2009). The Cartoons that Shook the World. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Kohlbacher, F. (2006). ‘The use of qualitative content analysis in case study research’. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research; Learning about Risk, 7 (1).
Kuipers, G. (2006). Good Humour, Bad Taste: A Sociology of the Joke. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Kuipers, G. (2008). ‘The sociology of humour’. In Raskin, V. (ed.), The Primer of Humor Research Vol. 8. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 361-398.
Kuipers, G. (2011). ‘The politics of humour in the public sphere: Cartoons, power and modernity in the first transnational humour scandal’. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 14 (1), pp. 63-80.
Kuipers, G. (2014). ‘Sociology’. In Attardo, S. (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Humor Studies Vol 2, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Kumar, S. & Combe, K. (2015). Political Parody and Satire as Subversive Speech in the Global Digital Sphere. London: Sage UK.
Lewis, P. (2008). ‘The Muhammad cartoon conflict: Implications for humour research and
advocacy’, in: Lewis, P., Davies, J. C. H., Kuipers, G., Martin, R. A., Oring, E. & Raskin, V. (eds.), ‘The Muhammad cartoons and humour research: A collection of essays’. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 21 (1), pp. 11-16.
Lichtenstein, D., Esau, K., Pavlova, L., Osipov, D. & Argylov, N. (2018). ‘Framing the Ukraine crisis: A comparison between talk show debates in Russian and German television’. International Communication Gazette 81 (1), pp. 66-88.
Lynch, O. H. (2002). ‘Humorous communication: Finding a place for humour in communication research’. Communication Theory 12 (4), pp. 423-445.
Mancini, P. (2013). ‘Media fragmentation, party system, and democracy’. The International Journal of Press/Politics 18 (1), pp. 43-60.
Marra, J. (2018). ‘Make comedy matter: Ernst Cassirer on the politics and morality of humour’. The European Journal of Humour Research 6 (1), pp. 162-171.
Mayring, P. (2014). Qualitative Content Analysis: Theoretical Foundation, Basic Procedures and Software Solution. Klagenfurt: Sage.
McGhee, P. M. & Goldstein, J. H. (1972). The Psychology of Humour: Theoretical Perspectives and Empirical Issues. New York: Academic Press.
Meyer, J. C. (2000). ‘Humour as a double-edged sword: Four functions of humour in communication’. Communication Theory 10 (3), pp. 310-331.
Michaud Wild, N. (2015). ‘Dumb vs. fake: Representations of Bush and Palin on Saturday Night Live and their effects on the journalistic public sphere’. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 59 (3), pp. 494-508.
Morreall, J. (1983). Taking Laughter Seriously. Albany: State University of New York.
Mulkay, M. J. (1988). On Humour: Its Nature and its Place in Modern Society. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Ödmark, S. (2018). ‘Making news funny: Differences in news framing between journalists and comedians’, Journalism. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884918820432
Palmer, J. (1994). Taking Humour Seriously. London: Routledge.
Patterson, T. E. (1993). Out of Order. New York, N.Y.: Knopf.
Peifer, J. T. (2013). ‘Palin, Saturday Night Live, and framing: Examining the dynamics of political parody’. The Communication Review 16 (3), pp. 155-177.
Plato. (1961). The Collected Dialogues of Plato, Including the Letters. New York: Princeton University Press.
Quirk, S. (2015). Why Stand-up Matters: How Comedians Manipulate and Influence. London: Bloomsbury.
Raskin, V. (1985). Semantic Mechanisms of Humor. Dordrecht: Reidel.
Rose, F. (2014). The Tyranny of Silence. Washington: CATO Institute Press.
Sallinen, J. (2018, August 30). ‘Detta har hänt: Vikthån–då ville Åkesson skrota P3’. Svenska Dagbladet. Retrieved 17 January 2021 from https://www.svd.se/detta-har-hant-vikthan–da-ville-akesson-lagga-ner-p3
Scheufele, D. A. & Tewksbury, D. (2007). ‘Framing, agenda setting, and priming: The evolution of three media effects models’. Journal of Communication 57 (1), pp. 9-20.
Shoemaker, P. J. (1987). ‘Building a theory of news content’. Journalism Monographs 103.
Stigsson, H. (2018, August 30). ‘Dags att hyfsa debatten’. Norrköpings Tidningar. Retrieved 17 January 2021 from https://nt.se/asikter/ledare/dags-att-hyfsa-debatten-om5436965.aspx
Strömbäck, J. & Dimitrova, D. V. (2006). ‘Political and media systems matter: A comparison of election news coverage in Sweden and the United States’. Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics 11 (4), pp. 131-147.
Syvertsen, T., Mjøs, O. J., Enli, G. S. & Moe, H. (2014). The Media Welfare State: Nordic Media in the Digital Era. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Tang, A. (2018, September 25). ‘Det är ju bara på skämt–och vi kineser saknar tydligen humor’. SVT Opinion. Retrieved 17 January 2021 from https://www.svt.se/opinion/det-ar-ju-bara-pa-skamt-och-vi-kineser-saknar-tydligen-humor
Thompson, J. B. (2000). Political Scandal: Power and Visibility in the Media Age. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Thurfjell, G. (2018, October 24). ‘Huskvinnans återkomst–och konservatismens förbjudna lockelse’. Dagens Nyheter. Retrieved 17 January 2021 from https://www.dn.se/kultur-noje/kulturdebatt/huskvinnans-aterkomst-och-konservatismens-forbjudna-lockelse/
Wadbring, I. & Ödmark, S. (2014). Delad Glädje är Dubbel Glädje: En Studie om Nyhetsdelning i Sociala Medier. Sundsvall: Mittuniversitetet.
Weitz, E. (2016). ‘Humour and social media’. The European Journal of Humour Research 4 (4), pp 1-4.
Ziv, A. (1984). Personality and Sense of Humour. New York: Springer.