< Previous
Next >

: A tardy note, also apropos Sumana (apropos this CES entry, actually). Stereotype humor is humor in which the punchline is basically the assertion of a stereotype ("People in group x have property y") in a novel way. For instance, the 'Those Cowardly French' stereotype:

Q: How do you say "I surrender!" in French?
A: You don't need to say anything in particular, you just speak French.

Metastereotype humor is type of stereotype humor in which the stereotype being asserted is "People in group x hold stereotype y." The metastereotype humor I was thinking of in Sumana's act was a very funny bit in which Sumana's parents tell her that she needs to get a prestigious job because Indian-Americans stereotypically have such jobs (doctor, engineer, etc). Sumana counters by enumerating the various menial jobs that it is also stereotypical for Indian-Americans to have (7-11 clerk, taxi driver, etc.). Sumana's parents say "Oh, those are all Pakistanis." It's sterotype humor, but the stereotype being referenced ("Indians look down on Pakistanis") is that certain people have certain stereotypes.

I think that Sumana bit is the only time I've heard metastereotype humor done well (there's a difference between metastereotype humor and regular stereotype humor done flagrantly so as to mock the genre, of which there are many good examples). I may have seen it done well a couple times in old Saturday Night Live skits, but that's just a general feeling of 'they must have done that' than anything concrete.

Oh, there was a MAD article in the '70s called "You Can't Win With A Bigot" which was pretty funny, in addition to shining light on the last gasps of bigotry against groups for whom bigotry, as opposed to mere stereotyping, no longer works (eg. Italians). I'm not sure it counts, though, since the operative stereotype was "Bigots are bigoted", which is true by definition and therefore not much of a stereotype. It might just be flagrant stereotype humor with a tut-tut framing device.

Have you seen good metastereotype humor? Send in your examples.


[Main] [Edit]

Unless otherwise noted, all content licensed by Leonard Richardson
under a Creative Commons License.