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Humour scandals in the Netherlands, 1950s-present

Researcher

Dr Ivo Nieuwenhuis

Time frame

September 2020 – March 2023

Project description

Ever since the rise of mass media in the mid-twentieth century, pieces of publicly broadcasted comedy have occasionally led to controversy. Many older Dutch people may remember the fuss caused by a sketch parodying the Lord’s Prayer and other Christian symbols in the satirical TV-show Zo is het toevallig ook nog ’s een keer (1964). More recently, comedian Martijn Koning’s roast of politician Thierry Baudet in the talk show Jinek (2021) testifies to the fact that humour can still make people very angry.

These ‘humour scandals’, a term coined by Dutch sociologist Giselinde Kuipers, tell us a lot about the society they are part of. They are often a sign of shifting moral and social norms, or they reveal ideological tensions or rifts in the culture at stake. They also show that humour not only brings people together, but divides them as well. By studying these scandals, we thus reach a better understanding of both cultural change and the workings of humour.

Still Zo is het - Beeldreligie (1964)

Still from the TV-show Zo is het toevallig ook nog ’s een keer (1964) that caused a scandal by parodying the Lord’s Prayer and other Christian symbols.

In this project, I focus specifically on humour scandals in the Netherlands, from the 1950s to the present day. In a book targeted at a larger audience that will be published by the Dutch publishing house Atlas Contact in 2023, I will analyse eleven of those scandals in chronological order, thus not only sketching a concise history of publicly broadcasted comedy in the postwar Netherlands, but also showing the changing norms and values in this country over the past seventy years. This book is not only meant as a historical survey, but also as a contribution to ongoing public debates on the supposed ‘siege’ of humour in the wake of social justice movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, whereby critical discussions on racism and sexism in comedy are often mistaken for censorship and the idea of comedians being ‘cancelled’.

Keywords

Humour scandals; comedy; public controversy; mass media; contemporary history of the Netherlands; the politics of humour

Results

Short interview (in Dutch) on the project for the Dutch radio station NPO Radio 5 (14 February 2022).

Grappen verbinden niet alleen, ze leiden ook tot verdeeldheid’Radboud Recharge (4 February 2022).

Financier

Lira Fonds

Partner

Atlas Contact

atlas contact

Contact

Dr Ivo Nieuwenhuis, ivo.nieuwenhuis@ru.nl