The present study investigates the function of humor in parliamentary discourse. The data under examination come from the offcial proceedings of the Greek parliament and involve two main protagonists, the Greek prime minister and the leader of the opposition. The analysis reveals that parliamentary humor is used as a means of constructing and damaging participants' public image and political identity as well as attacking the opponent without violating parliamentary rules of behavior. Moreover, humor is used to introduce an informal tone to parliamentary procedures, thus distracting the attention of the wider audience from the important issues discussed in parliamentary debates. The negotiation of the humorous frame between the two politicians shows that, in settings where the serious mode of communication typically prevails, humor may be used at the expense of the humorist, thus canceling his/her efforts. Apparently, contextual parameters and genre rules and expectations play a significant role in successful humorous behavior.
In his seminal book on the Semantic Script Theory of Humor, Raskin employs, among other kinds of jokes, a corpus of political jokes to apply the theory and demonstrate its analytical potential. Still, research on political jokes, even within linguistics, appears to have so far overlooked Raskin’s analysis and classification of political jokes. The present study attempts to use this classification to investigate contemporary political jokes referring to the current Greek financial crisis in order to underscore the validity and significance of Raskin’s proposal. By tracing both similarities and differences between Raskin’s data and the Greek ones, it is argued that Raskin’s classification constitutes a useful heuristic tool for the analysis of political jokes, which could be further exploited and enriched to bring to the surface the particularities of political jokes originating in diverse linguocultural and sociopolitical contexts.