American jokes can be hard to understand especially for ESL students. Every country has its own brand of jokes and humor. The British are known for sarcasm, irony, and jokes on dark topics,. (In sarcasm and irony, the joker says the opposite of what is true in a tone that does not match the emotion of the statement.) British humor is often described as “dry” or “deadpan”, because British jokes are often delivered without excitement. Americans enjoy this type of humor also. But, American humor has its own flavor .
Understanding American Jokes: Slapstick
The most common type of American humor is slapstick. Slapstick is physical comedy that laughs at stupid mistakes or clumsy accidents. April Fools’ Day jokes, America’s Funniest Home Videos, and Vine videos get laughs using slapstick jokes and pranks. To learn more about these jokes, read our article, April Fools’ Day
Understanding American Jokes: Insult Comedy & Impersonations
Insult comedy is another favorite type of American humor. Joan Rivers, who died in 2014, was one of the most popular insult comics. She was known for insulting other celebrities’ appearances, lifestyles, and work. An insult is a joke that criticizes someone’s personality, looks, or behavior to get a laugh. Sometimes insult comedy is harmless, and no one’s feelings get hurt. But, insult comedy can sometimes sound mean.
Robin Williams, a comedian who also died in 2014, was known for many types of jokes. Robin Williams was best known for his impersonations and funny characters. (An impersonation is an imitation or mocking of someone’s voice, speaking style, and personality.) Impersonations, like insult comedy, can sometimes seem mean. But not always. Sometimes the person being impersonated finds the jokes funny, too.
Robin Williams was well-known for his character in Mrs. Doubtfire. In this movie, he impersonates an older female nanny to spend time with his children after his divorce. The humor in the film is slapstick and situational irony. The viewers know he is not really a woman. But, few of the characters in the film know he is actually a man. A hilarious scene from Mrs. Doubtfire is available here:
Understanding American Jokes: Satire
Many American TV shows and cartoons use sarcasm, puns, and situational irony to get a laugh.
Puns are jokes made by using words in silly ways. Situational irony is when the audience knows something about a situation that the characters in the show do not know. This is often funny, because -.
American cartoons are satires of American culture. The jokes in cartoons exaggerate American culture to highlight problems. In cartoons, the jokes are often criticisms of American customs, news, celebrities, and politicians. These shows make jokes about American culture and impersonate American leaders and celebrities. These jokes show Americans what is strange or funny about their habits.
Understanding American Jokes: Stand-up Comedy
Stand-up comedy is very popular in America. Stand-up comics use many types of jokes. One of the most common is observational humor. Some of the most popular comedians who use observational humor are: Ellen Degeneres, Jerry Seinfeld, and Louis CK. Ellen Degeneres has her own daytime comedy and talk show. Here are some of her best jokes from the show: