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