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Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious

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Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious
Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious
AuthorSigmund Freud
Original titleGerman: Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewußten
TranslatorJ. Strachey
LanguageGerman (1905)
English (1960)
PublisherF. Deuticke
Publication date
Publication placeGermany and Austria (1905)
United States (1960)
Published in English
Media typePrint

Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (German: Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewußten)[1] is a 1905 book on the psychoanalysis of jokes and humour by Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis.[2] In the work, Freud describes the psychological processes and techniques of jokes, which he compares to the processes and techniques of dreamwork and the unconscious.[3]


Freud claims that "our enjoyment of the joke" indicates what is being repressed in more serious talk.[4] Freud argues that the success of the joke depends upon a psychic economy, whereby the joke allows one to overcome inhibitions.[5]

According to Freud, understanding of joke technique is essential for understanding jokes and their relation to the unconscious; however, these techniques are what make a joke a joke.[6] Freud also noted that the listener laughing really heartily at the joke will typically not be in the mood for investigating its technique.[7]


The book is divided into three sections: "analytic," "synthetic" and "theoretical."

Analytic part[edit]

The book's first section includes a discussion on the techniques and tendencies of jokes.

Synthetic part[edit]

The second section includes a discussion on the psychological origins and motives of the joke and the joke as a social process.

Theoretical part[edit]

The book's final section discusses the joke's relation to dreams and the Unconscious.

In popular culture[edit]

The book is mentioned in Adventure Time episode "Blenanas", season 10, episode 9. Princess Bubblegum gives Finn a copy of the book and says she does not have time to explain the psychology of humor to him. The title shown in the episode is "Der Witz Und Seine Beziehung Zum Unter Bewussten."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The title is according to the 1905 translation by Joyce Crick. In some other English translations the work is titled The Joke and Its Relation to the Unconscious or Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious.
  2. ^ Doane, Mary Anne. "Theorising the female spectator." Hollywood: Cultural dimensions: ideology, identity and cultural industry studies 4, no. 3 (2004): 95.
  3. ^ Laurie, Timothy; Hickey-Moody, Anna (2017), "Masculinity and Ridicule", Gender: Laughter, Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference: 215–228
  4. ^ Billig, Michael. "The dialogic unconscious: Psychoanalysis, discursive psychology and the nature of repression." British Journal of Social Psychology 36, no. 2 (1997): 139-159.
  5. ^ Atluri, Tara. "Lighten up?! Humour, Race, and Da off colour joke of Ali G." Media, Culture & Society 31, no. 2 (2009): 197-214.
  6. ^ Neitz, Mary Jo. "Humor, hierarchy, and the changing status of women." Psychiatry 43, no. 3 (1980): 211-223.
  7. ^ Janks, Hilary. "Critical literacy: Beyond reason." The Australian Educational Researcher 29, no. 1 (2002): 7-26.