I am not American but I watched a lot of American comedy movies and I noticed something. That is, the types of jokes of Celtic American comedy, Jewish American Comedy and African American comedy are quite different.

  • Celtic American is person living in America with Celtic background such as Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Steve Martin, Steve Buscemi, ...

  • Jewish American is person living in America with Jewish background such as Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Rob Schneider, Jonah Hill, ...

  • African American is like Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock ...

I can feel the differences among those 3 but it is very hard to express.

So, could you state if there are major differences among Celtic American comedy, Jewish American Comedy and African American comedy and what those differences are?

Also, I didn't watch many Latin American comedy so I don't know their style.

  • @close-voters Would be bad to lose this question as it seems quite interesting, but I agree that is quite broad (yet I'm unsure how it could be unbroadened).
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 15:11
  • Are Americans with Italian descent also "Celtic" for that matter?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 15:16
  • 3
    As a notice. Anything undesireable (c'mon, judgement people) will be deleted.
    – Tablemaker
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 15:25
  • 1
    I agree, don't close this question. It has the potential of having some very interesting answers. Commented May 7, 2014 at 17:09
  • 4
    Just a note: Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi are of Italian, not Celtic descent. Also, Celtic may need a bit more definition, as Celtic encompasses MANY countries in Europe, including the British Isles, Portugal, France, parts of Spain, Germany, Nordic countries, etc etc. The Celts were a very far ranging people.
    – JohnP
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 17:46

1 Answer 1


Two good contemporary takes on black humor and Jewish humor are the documentaries Why We Laugh (2004) and When Jews Were Funny (2013), notable for their blend of historical insight and on-camera interviews with American comedians who may be said to represent their respective cultures of comedy -- and I would say that in spite of the Venn diagram for race and culture nearly overlapping as a single circle when it comes to comedy history, "cultural" feels like the more appropriate term.

Both documentaries stress the message that comedy is universal, though obviously neither shrinks from tackling the race aspect. Why We Laugh has a highly produced-by-committee feel that plays it safe and touches softly on key periods of 100 years of black American history, briefly discusses barriers and how they were overcome, and moves on with a smile; When Jews Were Funny is somewhat uncomfortably abrasive and raw, lingering in the now of each interview, the result of one filmmaker inserting himself into conversations and upsetting his interviewees. These approaches are not microcosms of black or Jewish comedy in general, though that argument could be made, but just my notes on the mood of each documentary.

I unfortunately have no documentary to recommend for white humor ("Celtic" humor?), but I think the above are very good resources.


Both black and Jewish comedians say...

  • Comedy evolves from overcoming atrocity and surviving, laughing
  • Comedy has universal appeal that transcends a comedian's intended audience
  • Comedians define themselves by their profession as entertainers first


Why We Laugh says...

  • Black American comedy has always been a ladder climb of defying the status quo
  • Black American comedy has always been in touch with and addressed politics of the time
  • Black humor celebrates confidence and the humor of confrontation
  • Black American comedy is burdened by a tendency to "dumb down" performances to pander to expectations of white audiences (derog. term, "cooning", debated as a once unavoidable cost to being a black actor in white America, today no longer justifiable or necessary, but persists for reasons of profit, etc.)

When Jews Were Funny

  • Jewish American comedy emphasizes self-deprecation and the humor of discomfort
  • Contemporary Jewish American comedians deny there is a cultural flavor to jokes, barring those specifically based on Hebrew terms or topics
  • It seems quite hard, I guess, but is there any way to somehow summarize some major points from those documentaries?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 14:04
  • @NapoleonWilson - Sure thing! Some bullet points have been added.
    – rbsite
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 14:56
  • Thax you rbsite for sharing your knowlege. I think back humor is hot (hot means people upset all time), white humor is cold (cold means people use cold faces to make laugh), latino humor is warm (warm means people are very closed and are hugging together saying halo halo), Jewish humor is cool (cool means it like to use a lot of cool tricks watch Adam Sandlers). Maybe I am wrong but that is what I belives
    – Tom
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 1:46
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    @Tom I'm not sure I would count Adam Sandler as classic Jewish humor, but I'm not really an expert on the topic either.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 9:13

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