NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT THAT! Erving Goffman and the (un)humorousness of everyday life

Ryan Mack, Gary Alan Fine

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter examines Erving Goffman’s own dispersed discussions of the humorous, the humorousness of his own writing, and applications of Goffman’s work to humour research. If Goffman frames everyday life as a performance of the self, then everyday life is not a comedy but a drama of serious competition. Jokes signal threats to an earnest presentation of self and often point to discrepancies between the idealized version of a self or society and the actual reality. Though one might use the ‘holes in the structure’ that jokes point to as leverage for liberation from said structure, Goffman’s writing suggests that jokes, humorousness, and the comedic primarily reinforce dominant social orders. Rather than disrupt, it stabilizes. Furthermore, Goffman himself writes in a famously playful and humorous fashion, a facet of his writing that seems to have grown as his career progressed. His own growing humorousness may suggest an emerging sensibility about how we might escape what he termed in his final essay on ‘The Interaction Order’ our ‘disheartening capacity for accepting miserable interactional arrangements’, including our tendency to include humour as part of a serious social order.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge International Handbook of Goffman Studies
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781000604412
ISBN (Print)9780367750718
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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