Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Educative Humor

Bryson’s sarcastic descriptions of American cultural practices make me question: to what extent am I a stranger in my own homeland?  This is one of the first times we see a type of educative humor that informs readers not about the author himself, like David Sedaris, or about certain stereotypes, like Tyler Perry, but about where we live and what we see every day.  Bryson’s purpose seems to be bringing attention to national and insignificant topics in the United States simply to make us think about the culture we adhere to without thinking.  On the macro level, he writes about the War on Drugs and includes specific statistics that show just how massively expensive and impactful the War on Drugs is, yet the average American rarely talks about it (at least I don’t).  On the micro level, Bryson is one of the few to bring Boxing Day out of obscurity because no American actually knows what that day is for.  His topics and the people he seems to indict at some points pretty much run the gamut until no one is left standing in his jokes.   

            Bryson is probably more conscious of American idiosyncrasies than most Americans because he has left and returned with a different perspective; but because he is an American himself, his humor can be interpreted more in a funny, enlightening way than a sarcastic, insulting way.  Bryson has the authority to educate through humor because he is part of the same culture.  We discussed Perry probably does not have the authority to stereotype black women because he is not a woman.  David Sedaris probably does not have the authority to make fun of his whole family when Tiffany clearly disagreed with some of his stories.  Bryson walks a fine line between being sarcastic and pretentious, but he does have the authority needed as an American citizen to poke fun at the American culture and the government.  Because of this, I’d say his main purpose with the book is to inform and bring everything to the forefront (no matter how personal or insignificant), and the byproduct is humor and entertainment.  In short, his humor is used productively and educationally.         

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