chapter  25
Failed Humor
ByNancy D. Bell
Pages 15

This chapter explores the joint construction and management of failed humor. Scholarly work on humor included only occasional mentions of failed humor with no attempts to incorporate it into a larger theory of humor. There is often a fascination with humor and a tendency to see it as different from other types of communication, and while it does have its special qualities. The recognition of humor is an issue of framing or keying and is therefore not unlike serious talk. As humor scholars are always being reminded, explaining a joke usually ruins it for the hearer, thus, outside of self-corrections of, for instance, errors made due to misspeaking, the preference seems to be to employ strategies that allow audiences to decipher a challenging quip on their own. While repair sequences are efforts designed to re-establish intersubjectivity among conversational participants, the management of failed humor involves strategies aimed at saving face and maintaining comity.