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A Decade of Dark HumorHow Comedy, Irony, and Satire Shaped Post-9/11 America$
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Ted Gournelos and Viveca Greene

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781617030062

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617030062.001.0001

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“The Arab is the New Nigger”

“The Arab is the New Nigger”

African American Comics Confront the Irony & Tragedy of 9/111

(p.47) Chapter Three “The Arab is the New Nigger”
A Decade of Dark Humor

Lanita Jacobs

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter examines how, even in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, many African American stand-up comedians displayed an ambivalent patriotism—indeed, a pervasive Du Boisian “double consciousness” still felt by many African Americans. It shows that these comedians were sympathetic to the victims of 9/11, but whipped up jokes that called into question the clarity of the “us vs. them” distinction that white America largely embraced after the attacks. It discusses the issue of race and racial difference in 9/11-related jokes and considers the Arab or Middle Easterner as the “new nigger” theme in many urban comedy clubs. It also looks at audience reactions to 9/11 humor, noting how not all jokes managed to elicit laughter. Finally, it considers 9/11 jokes as a form of political commentary that offer cautionary perspectives about America’s war on terrorism and its sociopolitical ramifications.

Keywords:   race, 9/11, stand-up comedians, patriotism, African Americans, jokes, racial difference, humor, political commentary, terrorism

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