Despite the stark contrast between laughter and war, it is not hard to understand why the two go together so well. Not only does humour form an ideal weapon to attack the enemy without running the immediate risk of losing lives, it can also function as a coping mechanism, a way to come to terms with the inevitable atrocities unfolding in times of military conflict, either through cold cynicism or through mild jokes that offer comic relief. Humour can bring consolation and distraction when everything around looks sinister and all hope for salvation seems in vain. As such, it can also boost morale. Knowing this, it does not come as a surprise that the First World War (1914-1918), arguably one of the most grim episodes of the twentieth century, gave rise to a rich collection of jokes. A significant number of them are discussed in Leslie Milne’s study Laughter and War. Humorous-Satirical Magazines in Britain, France, Germany and Russia 1914-1918.
Kuipers, G. (2011). ‘The politics of humour in the public sphere: cartoons, power and modernity in the first transnational humour scandal’. European Journal of Cultural Studies 14 (1), pp. 63-80.
Nieuwenhuis, I. (2017). ‘Performing rebelliousness: Dutch political humor in the 1780s’. Humor: International Journal of Humour Research 30 (3), pp. 261-277.