Carry On Joking: Freud, Laughter and the Hysterical Male in the Carry On films

Bannister, John (2007) Carry On Joking: Freud, Laughter and the Hysterical Male in the Carry On films. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The popularity of the Carry On films can be measured by the success of the series
which ran for twenty years from 1958-1978. Twenty-nine films were made and at the
height of their popularity in the 1960s two films a year were being produced to
capitalise on the success of the series. Film after film utilised the same comedic
formula often with the same actors playing the same character types telling the same
jokes. The aim of this thesis is to explore a number of questions: How were audiences
positioned to laugh at the same 'dirty' joke that was told over and over again? What
was the relationship between the verbal joke and the visual gag? How significant were
the hysterical male characters played by Kenneth Connor and Kenneth Williams in the
creation of the comedy of castration, and how was a sense of humour shared between
young male audiences and the producers who promoted the heterosexual ideology of a
male patriarchal society? Whilst film theories of comedy have concentrated on the
visual gag, and psychoanalytic film theories have concentrated on the male gaze as the
source of pleasure for the voyeuristic male spectator, this thesis draws on Freud's Jokes
and their Relation to the Unconscious to analyse the Carry On films. Freud's
comprehensive theory incorporates the verbal, the comic (visual) and the importance of
sharing humour in jokes. He explains the psycho-social relationship between sexually
inhibited male desire and patriarchal censorship that are necessary for the production of
pleasure sought for and found in many sexual jokes. The Carry On films make a useful
choice for investigating the relevance of Freud's theories of humour since the films
exhibit a recurrent theoretical preoccupation with psychoanalysis. The hysterical males
are a particularly useful source to investigate since the dirty jokes coalesce around them.

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