Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Summer 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


School of Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication


Jennifer Almjeld

Cathryn Molloy

Michael Smith


As race relations reach their worst state since the early 1990s, the Black American community has resorted to new and savvy rhetorical moves to communicate their point of view. This thesis takes on the podcast, The Read, in order to examine how humor is used as a rhetorical tool within the Black American community. Using a case study method, this research takes on a close examination of the five most popular episodes of The Read that aired between August 2015 and December 2015. The three philosophical theories of humor, superiority, relief, and incongruity, are coded within eleven controversial topics in order to examine how often those theories are used. While the relief theory of humor wasn’t used as often as the other two theories, the way the relief theory was used point to interesting moves by the hosts of The Read. 1) The relief theory allowed for the hosts of the podcast to use the tagline “Comedy”, even though they discuss difficult issues concerning race. 2) The relief theory of humor is almost never used on its own, almost always overlapping with the incongruity theory of humor and/or the superiority theory of humor. Although the focus of this thesis was on race, the other two theories of humor yielded interesting results. 3) The superiority theory was used the most in the five episodes of the podcast, and was used most often when discussing popular culture and celebrity gossip. 4) Although the incongruity theory of humor wasn’t used as often as the superiority theory, it proved to be the most versatile theory of humor. Future studies involving humor, especially studies involving race and humor, can find valuable information in this piece regarding how humor is used; however, future studies should consider larger sample sizes, conducting interviews to understand the effect of each humor, and non-Western humor formulations in their study.