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Did you call in Mexican? The racial politics of Jay Leno immigrant jokes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 February 2009

César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano StudiesUniversity of California, Los Angeles5169 N. Maywood AvenueLos Angeles, , CA


This article analyzes a set of anti-immigrant jokes with which Jay Leno entertained his national television audience in 2006, when the U.S. public was focused on unprecedented demonstrations urging justice for immigrants. Leno adroitly mocks immigrants and their cause to give his audience emotional release by distancing them from immigrants. It is argued that political comedy can be an insidious discursive practice that reduces its audience’s critical judgment as it signifies social boundaries. It should be carefully scrutinized because, with a few laughs, Leno can steer sentiment about public policy and instantiate divisiveness for an audience of 6 million who, in the words of Leno’s official website, “are drifting off to dreamland.” (Humor, political comedy, late-night television, immigrant rights marches)*

Research Articles
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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