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Journalist Finds One Universal Joke: Making Fun of Others

Lance Morrow, an award-winning journalist with Time magazine, once set out to write an article asking if there was one universal joke, told everywhere around the world. Here's what happened:

I sent out a query to all of Time's bureaus around the world—Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney, New Delhi, Jerusalem, Rome, Bonn, London, Paris, Rio, Buenos Aires, and so on. I asked the correspondents to tell me one or two jokes then current in their part of the world.
It turns out there is a universal joke. It was what Americans refer to as the "Polish joke." Except of course that everywhere, the role of [Polish people] in the "Polish joke" is enacted by some appropriate other group. The Flemings have Walloon jokes, for example. The English tell Irish jokes, and vice versa …. The people in Tokyo have jokes about the people in Osaka. I was once on the tiny island of Grenada (133 square miles) and was told that people on one side of the island had a large stock of vicious jokes about people on the other side of the island; and vice versa.
In the universal humor, as in universal evil, you need the Other. The Other is the butt of your joke, or the butt of your evil.

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