Centre for Social Work Practice

Comics, Comedy and Cake - The Lighter side of Social Work?

Posted October 25, 2013

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Stephen Jordan – October 2013

An exploration of humour, jokes and their relationship to social work. Presented on Friday 25th October 2013. 5.30pm - 7.30pm

Is there a lighter side of social work?

By researching humour in relation to social work, you can end up in some serious places. Given the current context of social work practice in the UK, with public, media and politicians’ lack of confidence in social work, there could be a fear in not being taken seriously as a social worker. In such circumstances a study into the use of humour by and about social work could be seen not just as frivolous, irrelevant and possibly undermining social work credibility.

However we cannot ignore humour, as Pickering and Lockyer (2009) point out humour is not confined to one particular genre or narrative and “infiltrates every area of social life” (Pickering and Lockyer, 2009 p.6.) Humour is universal to human beings and Apte (1983) pointed out that no ‘humour free’ culture has yet been found. Without the possibility of humour and laughter, serious social life could not be sustained (Billig, 2005). It follows then that social work could not take on the very serious work it does, without the possibility of laughter, jokes and humour.

In the 18th century the “humours” were the bodily fluids which were thought to provide people with their individual temperament (Billig, 2005). The humourist became the creative writer who invented comic “humorous” characters, and the phrase “a sense of humour” only started to be used in the 1840s (Billig, 2005).

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