Humor, emotion, and interpretive communities in the controversy over Jerry Springer: The Opera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Satires that tackle religion have always courted controversy. When Jerry Springer: The Opera was originally aired on the BBC in 2005, the show received 63,000 complaints and Christian Voice attempted to prosecute Mark Thompson (the Director General of the BBC) for blasphemy for airing the show. In this article I draw on the work of Stanley Fish and Gerben van Kleef to argue that interpretive communities of emotional readers provide a valuable framework for interpreting humor scandals. This framework contributes to our appreciation of the interpersonal in the emotional experience of humor and demonstrates that interpretations of humor are often goal-oriented and ideologically motivated. Using the examples of Christian Voice and Mediawatch-UK, I demonstrate how these emotional communities are constructed as well as the rhetorical strategies these organizations adopted. To accuse Jerry Springer: The Opera of blasphemy, for example, Christian Voice presented themselves as defenders of traditional British values. Finally, my analysis of these examples demonstrates that the potential for community outrage increases especially when the community faces a crisis of identity.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Early online date3 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Apr 2024


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