The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 10, No 1 (2022)

Hideous or hilarious? The fine line between disgust and humour

Justyna Jajszczok


The article compares disgust as defined by the Parasite Avoidance Theory and humour explained through the Benign Violation Theory in order to analyse whether their affinity could be explained by analogous evolutionary conditioning. Both disgust and humour can be seen as specific, involuntary reactions toward particular triggers, and both may be connected with certain types of violations, particularly violations of body and violations of social norms. Moreover, disgust-sensitivity and humour-sensitivity are assumed to be largely dependent on personal circumstances and thus very difficult to predict before exposure to triggers. According to these theories, the fundamental difference between disgust and humour is that while the success of the latter is predicated on its benignness, the former must necessarily appear malignant enough to elicit the desired effect. The final part of the article is a case study of a “disgusting” joke by British comedian Jimmy Carr, in which various violations recognised by PAT and BVT are analysed.


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