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International Journal of Humor Research

Editor-in-Chief: Kuipers, Giselinde

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Miss Grimshaw and the White Elephant: Categorism in a risque humor competition

Michael Lloyd

Correspondence address:

Citation Information: Humor - International Journal of Humor Research. Volume 24, Issue 1, Pages 63–86, ISSN (Online) 1613-3722, ISSN (Print) 0933-1719, DOI: 10.1515/humr.2011.004, January 2011

Publication History

Published Online:


A humorous competition called “The Adventures of Naked Man” ran in a New Zealand newspaper from 1999 to 2000. The competition's protagonist is the sole naked person in a drawn setting where, because of some convenient object or body position, his penis is always obscured from sight. Entrants to the competition submitted a caption to go with the drawn setting, the task being to make humor; the common solution to this task being some form of penis joke based upon double entendre. The editors of the competition employed a “taste test” to reject entries that were too vulgar thus protecting the competition from attack by “moral guardians,” although the details of the test were never fully explained. This article analyzes the full corpus of Naked Man episodes in regard to the finely detailed work of categorization. Drawing on some basic principles of Membership Categorization Analysis, it is shown that the degree of sexual allusiveness in the humor is closely connected to categorizations of people and activities, and in this process the fine detail of quite simple drawings are very significant.

Keywords:: Activity-inferences; membership categorization; moral values; nakedness; risqué humor; visuality

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