Colloquium: Will Carr

Date(s) - 03/10/2022
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm


Will Carr, Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese will present for the Humanities Center’s weekly colloquium on Thursday, March 10th. The presentation will be held at 3:00 PM in room 4010 JFSB.

For those who prefer to join via Zoom:

Title: Socrates, Freud, and Francisco Franco Walk into a Bar: How One Spanish Loser Joked Truth to Power 

(Feat. A Heinously Truncated and Woefully Inadequate Overview of Humor Studies)

A singular performance in political humor took place on July 18, 1952. The venue was not a theater or nightclub but rather one of Generalissimo Francisco Franco’s palaces. At the behest of Franco’s staff, the up-and-coming comedian Miguel Gila performed a monologue called “Cómo llegué a la guerra” [“How I Went to War”] in front of Franco himself and a large gathering of dignitaries. Years later, critics would read Gila’s war-based humor as a takedown of the Franco regime’s triumphalist narrative surrounding the “Glorious National Uprising.” And yet Gila, who fought on the losing side of the Civil War, performed various war monologues without suffering reprisals of any kind. In fact, his live routines reportedly made Franco himself “bust a gut” despite the general’s legendarily “scant sense of humor.”

How did Gila manage to ridicule Spain’s dictatorial regime and get the dictator to laugh at it? To attempt an answer to this question, we will take a brisk tour through Humor Studies, take a rest stop to explore the conflicts in 20th-century Spanish humor, and finally examine the overlapping metaphors of work, play, and warfare in Gila’s star-making monologue. (Fair warning: E.B. White reportedly wrote that “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.”)


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