Edited by Margherita Dore
[Topics in Humor Research 11] 2022
► pp. 113–140
Chapter 6Humour, language variation and self-translation in stand-up comedy
This chapter concentrates on self-translation, humour and language variation in Marsha De Salvatore’s stand-up routines. She is a professional Italian American comedian whose one-woman shows talk about her chronic illness (i.e., Beta-Thalassemia Major) and her life in Italy as a “half-expatriate”.
By comparing the original English scripts and the Italian scripts she self-translated, this study explores the mechanisms at work in creating humorous scripts in two different languages. The textual analysis is supported by De Salvatore’s answers during a semi-structured interview. The findings show that when discussing her chronic illness, De Salvatore consciously mixes tragedy and comedy to defy stereotypes about sick people, win over her audience and persuade them to donate blood. In her show about her life, she relies mostly on disparaging humorous comments targeting herself, her friends and her Calabrian family. Interestingly, her scripts in English are mainly constructed on the opposition between English and Italian (and Calabrian) language and culture. Conversely, her self-translated scripts recast this opposition between Italian and Calabrian, albeit retaining some English, since her audience normally has a good grasp of it. Besides, the Italian versions appear tamer when dealing with topics such as sex, which may depend on the fact that this culture is generally more sensitive to taboo humour. However, localising and compensatory strategies make the Italian scripts as effective as the English versions in triggering humour and successfully creating comedian-audience affiliation.
- 2.Humour, self-translation and stand-up comedy
- 3.Methodology and data collection
- 4.Data analysis
- 4.1Stand-up and blood donation
- 4.2Family humour and life as a “half-expatriate”