Humor as staging an utterance
In this paper conversational humor is understood as a discourse modality actively contextualized by speakers in order to indicate that an utterance is not meant seriously. The paper focuses on the contextualization cue (Gumperz 1982) of <i>animated speech</i> which is accounted for in terms of shifted <i>footing</i> (Goffman 1992), i.e. instances when speakers lend their voice to another character and stage utterances attributed to this character. Using the example of data from Russian face-to-face conversations, it is shown that animated speech plays a crucial role in establishing several forms of humor such as parody, irony or teasing. Staging an utterance, speakers humorously detach themselves from a rendered discourse and convey the meta-message ‘This is play’ while at the same time playing a role. It is therefore argued that animated speech can be regarded as a ‘natural’ contextualization cue, where the indexed meaning is iconically motivated.