It’s funny to you, because you dislike Arabs.

Does Humor On The Internet Mold Political Thinking? (ScienceDaily):

Jokes are not merely a source of popular enjoyment and creativity; they also provide insights into how societies work and what people think. Humor is so powerful it can help shape geopolitical views worldwide, according to Professor Darren Purcell and his team from the University of Oklahoma in the US.

Their study of humor including the analysis of two Achmed the Dead Terrorist skits, has recently been published online in Springer’s GeoJournal.


The authors use ‘disposition theory’ – a framework that allows them to understand who will regard which content as funny, and how derisive humor can be seen as amusing – to examine particular types of humor in texts which reflect society’s concerns, developments and relationships, and by extension, the geopolitical implications of these texts. With an emphasis on social context, the theory suggests that the appreciation of humor is dependent, in part, on whether one holds a positive or negative attitude, or disposition, toward the object of humor.

Purcell and colleagues analyze two stand-up comedy routines performed by American ventriloquist Jeff Dunham. The skits center on the character of Achmed the Dead Terrorist, an unsuccessful suicide bomber. The humor plays on anti-Arab/Muslim sentiment. Dunham uses his audiences’ disposition towards terrorists to get laughs, while at the same time challenging his audience members to look at their own views of terrorism, Islam, and American efforts in Iraq.


They conclude that “the diffusion of humor with geopolitical content to a global viewing audience, via personal networks spanning multiple scales, forces us to consider the role of individuals (via forwarding and dissemination) as producers and reproducers of geopolitical codes and active participants in constructing enemies and threats, even in the guise of a two-foot tall puppet.”

Here are two YouTube videos about Achmed the Dead Terrorist: Jeff Dunham – Achmed the Dead Terrorist and Achmed The Dead Terrorist Carols. Ironically, in the first video, Jeff Dunham says, “I don’t want racist jokes in my act.” Dunham also makes Achmed say that he is not Muslim because he is made in China, as if it is obvious that Chinese Muslims do not exist. Finding that “joke” funny requires ignorance in multiple domains of knowledge.

The ScienceDaily article claims that Dunham is “challenging his audience members to look at their own views of terrorism, Islam, and American efforts in Iraq”, but none of the two videos I linked above demonstrate this at all.

10 Responses to “It’s funny to you, because you dislike Arabs.”

  1. Lorraine Says:

    Comedy is a place that I still find myself condoning racism. I generally like Jeff Dunham’s comedy, though Achmed is not my favorite.

    You are absolutely right though, I’ve read that Dunham doesn’t do racist jokes, but then I see things like Achmed, and it’s kinda hard to defend that. I’ve made the excuse to myself that he’s not actually making fun of arabs, that he’s making fun of terrorists. But, why are we making fun of Muslim fundamentalists, and not Christian fundamentialists too?

    But really, how much of that is making fun of terrorists vs. making fun of racism? The “hauking (sp?) a loogey” accent is funny. Really? It’s so stupid. I’m deluding myself that it’s not racist.

    It is. It so is.

  2. Restructure! Says:

    Yeah, I mean the “joke” that Arabic phonemes sound like phlegm is totally a jab at terrorists. (sarcasm)

    edit: It is, for people who think Arabs = terrorists.

  3. TR Xands Says:

    Dropping in because this is something I found myself thinking about after watching Dunham’s Christmas special earlier this year. As much as I like Dunham’s humor, yeah, Achmed the Dead Terrorist really rubbed me the wrong way. I felt it was a kind of cheap ploy for laughs if that makes sense. I laughed at the first special he debuted him in but after hearing the Jingle Bombs thing I found myself so uncomfortable and I had to think about what I was really laughing at and it just…bothered me. So that article was really interesting for me and I think I’m agreeing with your (and Lorraine’s) conclusions here.

  4. Kathy Says:

    Restructure, thanks for this post, as I have been giving a lot of thought to comedy and racism, actually all the isms and it seems very hard to find comedy without something racist in it, except maybe the Three Stooges throwing pies in the face. I love humor but I didn’t find Dunham’s clip funny at all.

  5. Kathy Says:

    hey thanks Restructure:)

  6. wyd Says:

    Dunham is stupid. my mom is a chinese and i automatically have chinese blood but we’re born muslims. one reasonable word to say abt dunham is he has just walked around his home and never go travelling to see the world.

    never got funny thing from a racist issue though we wanna dazzle it. one may have white skin and im yellow but our blood are red.

    thx for post.

  7. banshwa Says:

    I understand the point of view that it is racist though I don’t agree. I’m a Caucasian/Asian whose Southern Christian Conservative and have had many, many comedians making fun of one or more of these aspects of my person especially the Southern part because apparently it’s funny to talk about us being inbreeding, racist, alien abducted, bestiality practicing, didn’t graduate elementary school, drive pickup trucks, hunt, love our guns and dogs and beer, listen to country music, and speak all funny. Take the white guy out and now add a person of correct ethnicity and now it would be considered funny. Look at hispanic, black, asian, or any other race comedians and you will see that they frequently point out things and get laughs for the same things that others, if the wrong race, would be called racist for.

    The bit is not directed at Arabs, it’s taking a group of people that scare people, in this case suicide bombers, and allowing people to laugh at them. The joke about being made in China is because he is nothing more than an object, a toy, or as Walter supposably said, a Halloween decoration. The spelling thing is more that he’s to ignorant to spell his own name than an insult to the language. Taking this act too seriously is like saying Newman from Seinfeld was saying all postal workers act that way or that the Soup Nazi represented the whole. Maybe you don’t go golfing because all caddies are as incompetent as Jerry Lewis in The Caddy, or you won’t go to the dentist because of Little Shop of Horrors. Taking something serious and making it possible to laugh about it, that is the full purpose of this bit.

    As I said before, I’m a country boy and find nothing wrong with Bubba J, I don’t think all old people act like Walter, and I don’t think Mexicans are hot peppers with sticks shoved up in them. Stop this political correct stuff and just find the absurdity in the act.

  8. Abubakr Says:

    I totally agree with you Restructure!

    These types of activities usually guides people to thinking wrongly about our religion. Comedy is fine, but there is a limit to everything. The act, appearance, the name, the label(Dead Terrorist) conveys wat? That muslims are terrorists.

    Islam is a religion of peace. People should really look into their practices before point out unnecessary flaws from other’s practices

    Really appreciated the article !

  9. Abubakr Says:

    Let me correct myself ” The appearance alongside the act, the name and the label(dead terrorist) conveys the message that we muslims are terrorists”

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