Humor on Cooking Shows

  • Kelsi MatwickEmail author
  • Keri Matwick


This chapter describes characteristics of play and humor on cooking shows, illustrating how celebrity chefs use language to present cooking as fun. Analyzing the dynamics of “interactional humor” (Tsakona & Chovanec, 2018), this chapter examines humor of two cooking show genres on Food Network that feature talk in interaction: talk cooking shows and travel cooking shows. On the talk cooking show, The Kitchen, five co-hosts chat about food-related news, give cooking and hosting tips, cook, and eat on a set styled like a home with a kitchen, sitting area, and dining table. Their linguistic collaboration is a dynamic communicative event that gives rise to creative and diverse interpretations and meanings linguistically and culinarily. On the travel cooking show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, host Guy Fieri uses innovative expressions and playful quips to relate to ‘ordinary’ people, including restaurant chefs, owners, and local customers at the featured eatery. Humor is constructed in the cooking show discourse by verbal and nonverbal elements, individually and jointly, and through production effects. The dramatic visuality of the tv cooking show, with its kitchen environment and informal space for interaction, induces productive and creative language use. Further, humor creates play frames, allowing celebrity chefs to act outside of ‘normal’ script and activity, promoting openness to ideas and fresh insight into ways of doing or being.


  1. Bateson, G. (1979). Mind and nature. New York: Dutton.Google Scholar
  2. Bateson, G. (2000/1972). Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bennett, J. (2011). Television personalities: Stardom and the small screen. Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Boxer, D., & Cortes-Conde, F. (1997). From bonding to biting: conversational joking and identity display. Journal of Pragmatics, 27, 275–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carter, R. (2016). Creativity and language. Interalia Magazine. Retrieved from
  6. Chovanec, J. (2017). Interactional humour and spontaneity in TV documentaries. Lingua, 197, 34–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Coates, J. (1996). Women talk. Cambridge, MA: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  8. Coates, J. (2007). The talk in a play frame: More on laughter and intimacy. Journal of Pragmatics, 39(1), 29–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Collins, K. (2009). Watching what we eat: The evolution of television cooking shows. New York: Continuum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Contois, E. (2018). Welcome to Flavortown: Guy Fieri’s Populist American food culture. American Studies, 57(3), 143–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cook, G. (2000). Language play, language learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Davies, C. E. (2003). How English-learners joke with native speakers: An interactional sociolinguistic perspective on humor as collaborative discourse across cultures. Journal of Pragmatics, 35, 1361–1385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. De Solier, I. (2005). TV dinners: Culinary television, education and distinction. Continuum, 19(4), 465–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Di Ferrante, L. (2013). Small talk at work: A corpus-based discourse analysis of AAC and non-AAC device users (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Texas A&M University.Google Scholar
  15. Dynel, M. (2009). Beyond a joke: Types of conversational humour. Language and Linguistics Compass, 3(5), 1284–1299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eberle, S. G. (2014). The elements of play: Toward a philosophy and a definition of play. Journal of Play, 6(2), 214–233.Google Scholar
  17. Everts, E. (2003). Identifying a particular family humor style: A sociolinguistic discourse analysis. Humor, 16(4), 369–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fairclough, N. (1994). Conversationalization of public discourse and the authority of the consumer. In R. Keat, N. Whiteley, & N. Abercrombie (Eds.,), The authority of the consumer. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Fairclough, N. (1995). Media discourse. London: Edward Arnold.Google Scholar
  20. Fleming, P., & Sturdy, A. J. (2009). Just be yourself: Towards neo-normative control in organisations. Employee Relations, 31(6), 569–583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fleming, P., & Sturdy, A. J. (2010). ‘Being yourself’ in the electronic sweatshop: New forms of normative control. Human Relations, 64(2), 177–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fry, W. (1963). Sweet madness: A study of humor. Palo Alto: Pacific Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gallagher, M. (2004). What’s so funny about Iron Chef? Journal of Popular Film and Television, 31(4), 176–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. Garden City: NY: Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  25. Goffman, E. (1974). Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Harris, S. (2019, January 23). Holy Kolaches! Guy Fieri visits Hruska’s Kolaches on ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.’ Daily Herald.
  27. Henricks, T. (2009). Orderly and disorderly play: A comparison. American Journal of Play, 2(1, Summer), 12–40.Google Scholar
  28. Hernandez, J. (2018, October 11). Ina Garten wants you to cook like a pro, but have fun doing it. Chicago Tribute. Retrieved from
  29. Holmes, J., & Hay, J. (1997). Humour as an ethnic boundary marker in New Zealand interaction. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 18, 127–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Huizinga, J. (1944). Homo Ludens: A study of the play-element in culture. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Kozic, M. (2012). Framing communication as play in the sitcom: Patterning the verbal and the nonverbal humour. In J. Chovanec & I. Ermida (Eds.), Language and humour in the media (pp. 107–139). Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.Google Scholar
  32. Lamm, E., & Meeks, M. D. (2009). Workplace fun: The moderating effects of generational differences. Employee Relations, 31, 613–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Liddicoat, A., Brown, A., Dopke, S., & Love, K. (1992). The effect of the institution: Openings in talk back radio. Text, 12(4), 541–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lury, K. (2005). Interpreting television. London: Hodder Arnold.Google Scholar
  35. Matwick, K., & Matwick, K. (2014). Storytelling and synthetic personalization on television cooking shows. Journal of Pragmatics, 71, 151–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Norrick, N. (1993). Conversational joking: humor in everyday talk. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  37. O’Keeffe, A. (2006). Investigating media discourse. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Palmer, J. (1994). Taking humor seriously. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Paterek, J. D. (1959). Costuming for the theater. New York: Crown Publishers.Google Scholar
  40. Polan, D. (2011). Julia child’s ‘The French Chef’. Durham and London: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rubino, A. (2016). Constructing pseudo-intimacy in an Italo-Australian phone-in radio program. Journal of Pragmatics, 103, 33–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rutter, J. (1997). Stand-up as interaction: Performance and audience in comedy venues (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Salford.Google Scholar
  43. Sacks, H. (1966). Lectures on conversation, Volume 1 (reprinted in 1995). In G. Jefferson & E. A. Schegloff (Eds.), Lectures on conversation, Volumes I and II. Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  44. Salamon, J. (2000, June 19). Critic’s notebook: Chefs battle like samurai in a cult hit. New York Times. Retrieved from
  45. Sawyer, R. K. (2001). Creating conversations: Improvisation in everyday discourse. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.Google Scholar
  46. Sully, J. (1902). An essay on laughter. New York: Longmans, Green.Google Scholar
  47. Sutton-Smith, B. (2001). The ambiguity of play. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Tannen, D. (1990). You just don’t understand: Women and men in conversation. New York: Ballantine Books.Google Scholar
  49. Tews, M. J., Michel, J. W., & Bartlett, A. (2012). The fundamental role of workplace fun in applicant attraction. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 19(1), 105–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tolson, A. (1991). Televised chat and the synthetic personality. In P. Scannell (Ed.), Broadcast talk (pp. 178–200). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  51. Tsakona, V., & Chovanec, J. (Eds.). (2018). The dynamics of interactional humor: Creating and negotiating humor in everyday encounters. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Journalism and CommunicationsUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.School of HumanitiesNanyang Technological UniversitySingapore

Personalised recommendations