Modern black humour represents a rich history of radical innovation stretching back to the antebellum period. Laughing Fit to Kill reveals how black writers, artists, and comedians have used humour across two centuries as a uniquely powerful response to forced migration and enslavement.
Glenda Carpio traces how, through various modes of "conjuring," through gothic, grotesque and absurdist slapstick, through stinging satire, hyperbole, and burlesque, and through the strategic expression of racial stereotype itself, black humourists of all sorts have enacted "rituals of redress." In highlighting the tradition and tropes of black humourists, Carpio illuminates the reach of slavery's long arm into our contemporary popular culture. She convincingly demonstrates the ways that, for
instance, Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle's modes of post-Civil Rights tragicomedy are deeply indebted to that of William Wells Brown and Charles Chesnutt's 19th-century comedic conjuring. Likewise, she reveals how contemporary iconoclasts such as Ishmael Reed and Suzan-Lori Parks owe much to the
intricate satiric grammar of black linguistic expression rooted in slavery. Carpio also demonstrates how Robert Colescott's 1970s paintings and Kara Walker's silhouette installations use a visual vocabulary to extend comedy in a visual register.
The jokes in this tradition are bawdy, brutal, horrific and insurgent, and they have yet to be fully understood. Laughing Fit to Kill provides a new critical lexicon for understanding the jabbing punch-lines that have followed slavery's long legacy.
"An exceptionally well-executed and original piece of scholarship...Carpio's account is compelling, doggedly argued, skillfully executed, and somehow simultaneously both focused and sweeping. For readers interested in humor scholarship, or African-American culture history, or both, Laughing Fit To Kill absolutely deserves a place on the bookshelf." --Studies in American Humor
"One of the most groundbreaking critical studies of black humor in recent memory."--Daphne A. Brooks, Princeton University
"Glenda Carpio has written a marvelously compelling and seminal study of the rich and radical tradition of the uses of black humor, satire, and wit to confront even the most painful aspects of the African American past. This is a delightfully original contribution to the historical and literary scholarship about slavery."--Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard University
"Within this theoretically rich and fundamentally interdisciplinary project, Glenda Carpio uses the laugh as both a subject of study and a methodology for analyzing texts ranging from visual art and popular culture to literature and theater. Her book takes a most innovative and insightful approach to the question of how the legacy of slavery continues to resonate within the African American cultural imaginary."--Harry J. Elam Jr., Stanford University
"Laughing is a thorny, fascinating and complex study of black artists - writers, comedians, painters - who use humor to redress the horrors of slavery and its ghosts that linger in the public imagination."--Chris Vognar, The Dallas Morning News
1: "Laffin fit ter kill:" Black Humor in the Fiction of William Wells Brown and Charles W. Chesnutt
2: The Conjurer Recoils: Slavery in Richard Pryor and Chappelle's Show
3: Conjuring the Mysteries of Slavery: Voodoo, Fetishism, and Stereotype in Ishmael Reed's Flight to Canada
4: "A Comedy of the Grotesque": Robert Colescott, Kara Walker and the Iconography of Slavery
5: The Tragicomedy of Slavery in Suzan-Lori Parks' Early Plays
Series: The W.e.b. Du Bois Institute Series
Number Of Pages: 304
Published: 25th September 2008
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 24.0 x 16.2
Weight (kg): 0.58