‘Joking relationships’? Nope this is Roasting (Explicit) by Jessy Stanley

In Mary Douglas’ analysis of jokes she describes Griaule’s controversy with Radcliffe-Brown about the ‘joking relationship’. She states: “According to Griaule (1948), the Dogon joking partners do not exchange witticisms but rather gross insults… Griaule found it arbitrary to fasten on the laughter provoking aspect of a complex institution.” [1] Douglas continues by asking questions of whether an insult can be a joke, calling this form of jokes excrement.

Personally, I believe that they’re both wrong. I don’t think it is arbitrary to focus on this style of humor, nor do I think it is the excrement of comedy. Instead I think insult jokes are presentation of skill. These joking relationships highlight an area of dark comedy that has more beneficial qualities than these philosophers could imagine.

In today’s society this joke is called a roast, and the ‘joking partners’ is a roast battle. Roasting has become so popular that there is a USA/UK television show called Roast Battle. The television show highlights my points. Take the battle between Dolph Ziggler and Sarah Tiana. In the battle most of the jokes follow a similar structure in their composition of build up and to a dig. For example Zigger’s opening joke builds up how unfeminine Sarah is, then he lands a dig by saying “the only thing feminine about her is that she is not funny.” The joke is sexist, but still elicits a laugh from the audience. The reason  is roasts are typically seen as a release from political correctness and allow people to poke fun at stereotypes that are embedded in our society. Women are funny, and Zigger knows this, but society has marked women as unfunny for centuries so he uses the stereotype to release the tension that people feel. In roast there’s no hiding the vulgarity that lives in our minds. Its released through these jokes leaving a sense of refreshment. Overall, Roasts are not just insults but methodical jokes that play off the vulgarity of our society.



[1] Mary Douglas, “Jokes” in Implicit Meanings; Essays in Anthropology. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975). 92.


  1. I agree with you in that insults can be funny, for reasons that I don’t entirely comprehend –although Freud makes a good point of how this type of jokes can be seen as a disguised revenge on someone, which allow us to free our primal instincts of aggression. However, I don’t see how making a sexist joke can act as a catalyst, since the notion about women used by the joke is still very present in our society and it’s not, in my opinion, a ‘repressed’ idea.

    • I tend not to agree with Freud’s idea of repressed thoughts that bubble up to the surface. I agree that it still very present, but that is why it works as a catalyst. The vulgarity of society isn’t something we lock away, but rather shame away. And shame can be on the forefront of our thoughts because we, as a culture, are sensitive about it. By recognizing the shame it acts as a catalyst to release the tension we feel about it. And in terms of Freud’s point of using jokes as revenge on someone, when there is malicious intent behind a roast, it usually comes to the forefront and gets a negative reaction from the audience. Its like taking a joke too far with your friends. The laughter ceases and everyone goes “woah, that was too far.”

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