Publication Date

Spring 2014

Document Type



Communication Studies


Northwest Communication Association convention


In this paper we take up the topic of conversational humor by analyzing instances of teasing, joking, irony and banter in everyday settings in which these integral forms of talk play a part. This paper comes from an ethnographic project that was part of a class in language and culture, taught at a Catholic liberal arts college in a midsized city in Montana. In this exploration of conversational humor among college students – as they interacted for the most part in small groups of friends and acquaintances – we focus on interpretive and functional aspects of conversational humor. Through examining instances of conversational humor, we establish the careful collaboration among participants that maintaining a play frame entails. We also show that participants’ collaboration in seemingly superficial episodes of conversational humor accomplishes a host of relational tasks. In the following sections we draw upon areas of an immense and complex body of scholarship on conversational humor. Then, after explaining our method of gathering and analyzing data, we elaborate three themes we found upon examining more than 140 recorded instances of conversational humor.


Presented in 2014 at the Northwest Communication Association convention. Awarded top student-faculty collaboration.