Humor’s Role in Mashups and Remixes: Similarities Between Humor Structure and Remix Structure

  • Ragnhild Brøvig-HanssenEmail author
Part of the Pop Music, Culture and Identity book series (PMCI)


This chapter explores the role of humor in user-generated remixes by turning to humor theories developed primarily by scholars within the fields of philosophy, linguistics, and psychology. While the dominating theories of humor are limited to verbal humor, they also prove useful to the study of audiovisual remixes. By providing close analyses of three different forms of remixes (musical mashups, songifications, and lip-syncing), this chapter explores the way in which remixes are often constructed in a manner reminiscent of the structure of jokes (although this does not mean that humor is central to all remixes). The chapter aims at contributing to a broader understanding of remixes’ enormous and enduring popularity, and to illuminate the continuing benefits of interdisciplinary approaches to the analysis of popular music.


  1. Agloro, Alexandrina. 2011. Contemporary Coon Songs and Neo-Minstrels: Auto-Tune the News, Antoine Dodson, and the ‘Bed Intruder Song’. Gnovis Journal 11 (2).
  2. Arnopp, Jason. 2011. Slipknot: Inside the Sickness, Behind the Masks. London: Ebury Press.Google Scholar
  3. Attardo, Salvatore. 2008. A Primer for the Linguistics of Humor. In The Primer of Humor Research, ed. Victor Raskin, 101–155. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Attardo, Salvatore, and Victor Raskin. 1991. Script Theory Revis(it)ed: Joke Similarity and Joke Representation Model. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 4 (3/4): 293–347.Google Scholar
  5. Barthes, Roland. 1977. Image-Music-Text. London: Fontana.Google Scholar
  6. Beattie, James. 1971 [1776]. An Essay on Laughter, and Ludicrous Composition. In Essays, 583–705. New York: Garland.Google Scholar
  7. Berger, Jonah, and Katherine L. Milkman. 2012. What Makes Online Content Viral?. Journal of Marketing Research 49 (2): 192–205.Google Scholar
  8. Bourriaud, Nicolas. 2007. Postproduction: Culture as Screenplay; How Art Reprograms the World. New York: Lukas et Sternberg.Google Scholar
  9. Brackett, David. 2016. Categorizing Sound: Genre and Twentieth-Century Popular Music. California: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brøvig-Hanssen, Ragnhild. 2016. Justin Bieber Featuring Slipknot: Consumption as Mode of Production. In The Oxford Handbook of Music and Virtuality, ed. Sheila Whiteley and Shara Rambarran, 427–454. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Brøvig-Hanssen, Ragnhild, and Paul Harkins. 2012. Contextual Incongruity and Musical Congruity: The Aesthetics and Humour in Mash-Ups. Popular Music 31 (1): 87–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brøvig-Hanssen, Ragnhild, and Aram Sinnreich. forthcoming 2020. Do You Wanna Build a Wall? Remix Tactics in the Age of Trump. Popular Music and Society 43 (5).Google Scholar
  13. Covach, John. 1990. The Rutles and the Use of Specific Models in Musical Satire. Indiana Theory Review 11: 119–144.Google Scholar
  14. ———. 1995. Stylistic Competencies, Musical Humor, and ‘This is Spinal Tap’. In Concert Music, Rock and Jazz Since 1945: Essays and Analytical Studies, ed. Elizabeth W. Marvin and Richard Hermann, 402–424. Rochester: University of Rochester Press.Google Scholar
  15. Di Fede, Corella. 2014. The Case of Antoine Dodson and the Limits of Sampling as Transcultural and Cross-Class Expression. In Sampling Media, ed. David Laderman and Laurel Westrup, 212–227. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Du Bois, William E. B. 2003 [1903]. The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Modern Library.Google Scholar
  17. Eriksen, Asbjørn Ø. 2016. A Taxonomy of Humor in Instrumental Music. Journal of Musicological Research 35 (3): 233–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gallagher, Owen. 2018. Reclaiming Critical Remix Video: The Role of Sampling in Transformative Works. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Gleitman, Henry. 1991. Psychology. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  20. Graban, Tarez Samra. 2008. Beyond ‘Wit and Persuasion’: Rhetoric, Composition, and Humor Studies. In The Primer of Humor Research, ed. Victor Raskin, 399–447. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gunkel, David J. 2016. Of Remixology: Ethics and Aesthetics after Remix. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  22. Hutcheon, Linda. 2000. A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  23. ———. 2013. Irony’s Edge: The Theory and Politics of Irony. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  24. Jenkins, Henry, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green. 2013. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Kirkegaard, Sören. 1987. Concluding Unscientific Postscript. In The Philosophy of Laughter and Humor, ed. John Morreall, 83–89. New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  26. Kuhn, Virginia. 2017. Remix in the Age of Trump. Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric 7 (2/3): 87–93.Google Scholar
  27. Laderman, David, and Laurel Westrup, eds. 2014. Sampling Media. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Lessig, Lawrence. 2008. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. New York: Penguin Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Matyszczyk, Chris. 2016. The Trump-Clinton Video You’ll Watch for the Next Few Days. C-Net, October 10.
  30. McGranahan, Liam. 2010. Mashnography: Creativity, Consumption, and Copyright in the Mashup Community. PhD diss., Brown University.Google Scholar
  31. McIntosh, Jonathan. 2012. A History of Subversive Remix Video Before YouTube: Thirty Political Video Mashups Made between World War II and 2005. In Fan/Remix Video, ed. Francesca Coppa and Julie Levin Russo, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures 9.Google Scholar
  32. Morreall, John. 2008. Philosophy and Religion. In The Primer of Humor Research, ed. Victor Raskin, 211–242. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Navas, Eduardo, Owen Gallagher, and xtine burrough, eds. 2015. The Routledge Companion to Remix Studies. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L.F. Nilsen. 2008. Literature and Humor. In The Primer of Humor Research, ed. Victor Raskin, 243–280. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Oring, Elliott. 1989. Between Jokes and Tales: On the Nature of Punch Lines. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 2 (4): 349–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Phelps, Joseph E., Regina Lewis, Lynne Mobilio, David Perry, and Niranjan Raman. 2004. Viral Marketing or Electronic Word-of-Mouth Advertising: Examining Consumer Responses and Motivations to Pass Along Email. Journal of Advertising Research 44 (4): 333–348.Google Scholar
  37. Prakash, Neha. 2016. We Can’t Stop Laughing at These Hillary Clinton–Donald Trump Karaoke Memes. Teen Vogue, October 10.
  38. Raskin, Victor. 1985. Semantic Mechanisms of Humor. Dordrecht: Reidel.Google Scholar
  39. Rush, Willibald. 2008. Psychology of Humor. In The Primer of Humor Research, ed. Victor Raskin, 17–100. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.Google Scholar
  40. Schopenhauer, Arthur. 1957 [1819]. The World as Will and Idea, Vol. 1. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  41. Shifman, Limor. 2014. Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  42. Shklovsky, Victor. 1989. Art as Technique. In The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends, ed. David H. Richter, 774–784. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  43. Sinnreich, Aram. 2010. Mashed Up: Music, Technology, and the Rise of Configurable Culture. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.Google Scholar
  44. Spata, Christopher. 2016. Sing ‘Time of My Life’ during the Presidential Debate. Complex, October 11.
  45. Stryker, Sam. 2016. Need A Laugh? This Video of Hillary and Donald Singing ‘Time of My Life’ Should Do It. BuzzFeed, October 11.
  46. Suls, Jerry M. 1972. A Two-Stage Model for the Appreciation of Jokes and Cartoons. In The Psychology of Humor: Theoretical Perspectives and Empirical Issues, ed. Jeffrey H. Goldstein and Paul E. McGhee, 81–100. New York: Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Triezenberg, Katrina. 2004. Humor Enhancers in the Study of Humorous Literature. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 17 (4): 411–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Veatch, Thomas C. 1998. A Theory of Humor. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research 11 (2): 161–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Williams, Charles. 2013. I Am Charles Ramsey and Sweet Brown: ‘You Do What You Have to Do’ and ‘Aint Nobody Got Time for Dat’. Huffington Post, October 10.
  50. Wong, Jamie. 2014. Unintentional Singers: Auto-Tuning Everyday Speech on YouTube. Paper presented at the 9th Art of Record Production Conference, University of Oslo, December 5.Google Scholar
  51. Zijderveld, Anton. 1982. Reality in a Looking-Glass: Rationality through an Analysis of Traditional Folly. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RITMO Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Rhythm, Time and Motion, and the Department of MusicologyUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations