Three Holy Men Get Haircuts: The Semiotic Analysis of a Joke


  • Arthur Asa Berger


This article deals with a typology of 45 techniques of humor that I found when doing research on the mechanisms that generate humor in texts, lists the techniques and applies them to a Jewish joke. It references the work of Vladimir Propp on folktales as analogous in that both are concerned with mechanisms in text that generate meaning. It also deals with four theories about why people find texts humorous, defines the joke as a short narrative with a punch line that is meant to generate mirthful laughter and defines Jewish humor as being about Jewish people and culture as told by Jewish people. It offers a paradigmatic analysis of the joke, and offers some insights into why Jewish people developed their distinctive kind of humor. This article is an enhanced and expanded version of an article which was published in a Chinese semiotics journal (doi:10.1515/css-2015-0022).