Inter(n)active Symposium on Humor and Jokes as Cultural Diplomacy

(Berlin, December 4th, 2012)

The Event was organized by Jens Gronheid and Arturs Holavins
The “Inter(n)active Symposium on Humor and Jokes as Cultural Diplomacy,” organized by ICD interns Jens Gronheid and Arturs Holavins, took place on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012.

Unlike previous events hosted at the ICD, which have focused on topics such as the power of art and music to promote Cultural Diplomacy, this special event celebrated the power of humor in connecting people and bringing diverse cultures together.

The evening kicked off with a short lecture entitled “The Theory of Humor and Jokes as Cultural Diplomacy.”The lecture described contemporary theories of humor and how the communication of satire has a huge impact on the way jokes are understood. The importance of humor in understanding different cultures was also discussed, and an interesting concept was posed that the only way to truly understand different people, is to understand what makes them laugh.

Following the lecture, interns were asked to contribute to the symposium by sharing at least one joke, sketch or video clip that is specific to the sense of humor of their country. There were numerous contributions from countries including Russia, France, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Germany. As the evening continued, two things became very apparent: first, perhaps the only kind of humor suitable for “diplomacy” is satire, and second, humor is perceived and interpreted differently by different people. Due to linguistic barriers, it can sometimes be difficult to understand a joke or humorous situation and at times a different knowledge is required to understand the humor. Even certain English jokes, which were understood by everyone, failed to transcend the socio-cultural barriers.

Nevertheless, it was a thoroughly enjoyable night for all interns and by the end of the evening one thing was clear- that laughing and humor is common to all cultures, and no matter which language we speak or which country we belong to, through humor we can share our experiences and build stronger relationships with one another. We may not always understand each other’s sense of humor but through such a medium, we can at least better understand each other’s cultures and societies.