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(1971-72). Rationale of the Dirty Joke. An Analysis of Sexual Humor, First Series. G. Legman. New York: Grove Press, 1968, 811. Psychoanal. Rev., 58(4):643-644.

(1971-72). Psychoanalytic Review, 58(4):643-644

Rationale of the Dirty Joke. An Analysis of Sexual Humor, First Series. G. Legman. New York: Grove Press, 1968, 811

This book is monumental in terms of its content, its thorough tracing of source material from antiquity and the Middle Ages to contemporary America and Europe, and its psychoanalytic insights and socio-cultural knowledge.

This is not one of those joke books that are sold under the counter. It is a very erudite psychological, sociological, cultural and psychoanalytic treatise on how various types of human sexual behaviors are seen and evaluated in terms of humor. In the words of Mr. Legman, “erotic humor is … the most popular of all types and an extremely large percentage of the jokes authentically in oral circulation, in this and apparently in all centuries, is concerned with the humor—often unwilling, unpleasant and even purposely macabre—of the sexual impulse.”

This first volume deals with the so-called “clean” dirty jokes as they pertain to children, fools, animals, the male approach, the sadistic concept, premarital sexual acts, marriage, and adultery. The second volume will address itself to “dirty” dirty jokes, covering the even more taboo subjects of homosexuality, prostitution, disease, castration, dysphemia (stuttering) and cursing, and scatology. Just as beauty is said to exist in the eyes of the beholder, the definition of “clean” or “dirty” dirty jokes will depend on the frame of mind of the listener, his life experiences and anxieties. There seems to be a significant difference between the people who tell these jokes and those who listen and laugh.

The author, a native-born American, has lived for many years in southern France. His collection of erotic humor, as expressed in sexual jokes, limericks, ballads, anecdotes, folk tales, myths and scientific publications, contains about six thousand classified items, which took thirty years to accumulate. Approximately two thousand of these references are included in this first volume. Although it was published in 1968, the author discusses books, plays and newspaper items which were published as late as 1967.

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