The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 12, No 1 (2024)

Humour and the public sphere

Giselinde Kuipers,Dick Zijp


In this article, which serves as an introduction to a special issue on humor and the public sphere, we argue that humor has become increasingly central to public discourse in the 21st century, and that this necessitates a rethinking of the relationship between humor and the public sphere in contemporary democracies. In the article, we bring together the dispersed academic literature on humor and the public sphere, and show how humor and comedy scholars have engaged with the long-standing academic debate around this contested concept, which was coined by Jürgen Habermas in 1962. We also introduce the eleven contributions to this special issue and situate them within this ongoing debate.


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Basu, S. (1999). Dialogic ethics and the virtue of humor. Journal of Political Philosophy, 7(4), 378-403.

Baumgartner, J. (2024). Political humor. In T. Ford, W. Chlopicki & G. Kuipers (Eds.), De Gruyter handbook of humor studies (pp. 455-466). De Gruyter.

Baym, G. (2005). The Daily Show: Discursive integration and the reinvention of political journalism. Political Communication, 22(3), 259-276.

Bergson, H. (1911). Laughter: An essay on the meaning of the comic. MacMillan.

Benacka, E. (2016). Rhetoric, humor, and the public sphere: From Socrates to Stephen Colbert. Lexington Books.

Billig, M. (2005). Laughter and ridicule: Towards a social critique of humour. Sage.

Boukes, M., Boomgaarden, H.G., Moorman, M. & de Vreese, C.H. (2015). At odds: Laughing and thinking? The appreciation, processing, and persuasiveness of political satire. Journal of Communication, 65(5), 721–744.

Bouvier, G. & Rosenbaum, J. (2020). Communication in the age of Twitter: The nature of online deliberation. In G. Bouvier & J. Rosenbaum (Eds.), Twitter, the public sphere, and the chaos of online deliberation (pp. 1-22). Palgrave Macmillan.

Bruns, A. (2023). From “the” public sphere to a network of publics: Towards an empirically founded model of contemporary public communication spaces. Communication Theory, 33(2/3), 70-81.

Capelotti, J. (2024). Satire and parody. In T. Ford, W. Chlopicki & G. Kuipers (Eds.), De Gruyter handbook of humor studies (pp. 317-333). De Gruyter.

Chevrette, R. & Duerringer C. (2020). Bros before Donald Trump: Resisting and replicating hegemonic ideologies in the #BROTUS memes after the 2016 election. In G. Bouvier & J. Rosenbaum (Eds.), Twitter, the public sphere, and the chaos of online deliberation (pp. 235-265). Palgrave Macmillan.

Chiaro, D., Chlopicki, W. & Kuipers, G. (Eds.) (2022). Humour in the public sphere. URL:

Condren, C. (2002). Between social constraint and the public sphere: On misreading early-modern political satire. Contemporary Political Theatre, 1(1), 79-101.

Dahl, J. (2021). Voices on the border: Comedy and integration in the Scandinavian public spheres. [Doctoral dissertation, University of Bergen].

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Gardiner, M. (2004). Wild publics and grotesque symposiums: Habermas and Bakhtin on dialogue, everyday life and the public sphere. The Sociological Review, 52(1), 24-48.

Habermas, J. (1982). A reply to my critics. In J. Thompson & D. Held (Eds.), Habermas: Critical debates (pp. 219-283). MIT Press.

Habermas, J. (1992). Further reflections on the public sphere. In C. Calhoun (Ed.), Habermas and the public sphere (pp. 421-461). MIT Press.

Habermas, J. (1996). Three normative models of democracy. In S. Benhabib (Ed.), Democracy and difference (pp. 21-30). Princeton University Press.

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Holm, N. (2017). Humour as politics: The political aesthetics of contemporary comedy. Palgrave Macmillan.

Koivukoski, J. (2022). Political humor in the hybrid media environment: Studies on journalistic satire and amusing advocacy. [Doctoral dissertation, University of Helsinki].

Kuipers, G. (2008). The sociology of humor. In V. Raskin (Ed.), The primer of humor research (pp. 361-398). Mouton de Gruyter.

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), 63-80.

Kuipers, G. (2015). Satire and dignity. In M.M. Drees & S. de Leeuw (Eds.), The Power of Satire (pp. 19-32). John Benjamins.

Kuipers, G. (forthcoming, 2025). Humor and polarization. In R. Antonini, C. Bucaria & L. Rossato (Eds.), Humour, translation, food, and other indispensable things: The influence of Delia Chiaro’s work. Bloomsbury.

Lippert, L. (2022). Neoliberal feminisms, late-night comedy, and the public sphere, or: Samantha Bee takes on Ivanka Trump. Feminist Media Studies, 23(4), 1872-1887.

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Lockyer, S. & Weaver, S. (2024). The ethics of humor and comedy. In T. Ford, W. Chlopicki & G. Kuipers (Eds.), De Gruyter handbook of humor studies (pp. 527-544). De Gruyter.

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Mouffe, C. (2013). Agonistics: Thinking the world politically. Verso.

Nieuwenhuis, I. & Zijp, D. (2022). The politics and aesthetics of humour in an age of comic controversy. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 25(2), 341-354.

Pérez, R. (2022). The souls of white jokes: How racist humor fuels white supremacy. Stanford University Press.

Peruško, Z. (2021). Public sphere in hybrid media systems in Central and Eastern Europe. Javnost – The Public, 28, 36-52.

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Rodriguez, N. (2020). #FamilyTravelHacks: Humor and political commentary in hashtag hijacking. In G. Bouvier & J. Rosenbaum (Eds.), Twitter, the public sphere, and the chaos of online deliberation (pp. 267-290). Palgrave Macmillan.

Schneiders, P., Stegmann, D. & Stark, B. (2023). Social cohesion in platformized public spheres: Toward a conceptual framework. Communication Theory, 33(2-3), 122-131.

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Susen, S. (2011). Critical notes on Habermas’s theory of the public sphere. Sociological Analysis, 5(1), 37-62.

Tsakona, V. (2019). Talking about humor, racism, and anti-racism in class: A critical literacy proposal. Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov, Series IV: Philology and Cultural Studies, 12(61)(2), 111-141.

Tsakona, V. (2020a). Recontextualizing humor: Rethinking the analysis and teaching of humor. De Gruyter Mouton.

Tsakona, V. (2020b). Scrutinizing intertextuality in humour: Moving beyond cultural literacy and towards critical literacy. The European Journal of Humour Research, 8(3), 40-59.

Weaver, S. (2011). The rhetoric of racist humour: US, UK and global race joking. Ashgate.

Zijp, D. (2023). Comedians without a cause: The politics and aesthetics of humour in Dutch cabaret (1966-2020). [Doctoral dissertation, Utrecht University].

Zijp, D. (2024). Rashi Bhargava and Richa Chilana: Punching up in stand-up comedy: speaking truth to power. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 37(1), 149-153.