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Laffing wif ’n at da Fob, paht hooz da Fob? A discussion of the comedy performances of The Laughing Samoans in New Zealand: (Laughing with and at the Fob, but who's the Fob?)
Dalarna University, School of Humanities and Media Studies, English.
2013 (English)In: The Stockholm 2013 Metaphor Festival, Stockholm University, 29 - 31 August 2013: Conference proceedings book, 2013, 64-65 p.Conference paper, Abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The Laughing Samoans is a comedy duo comprising New Zealand-born Samoan comedian Tofiga Fepulea’i, and Samoan-born actor Etuati Ete. Having performed throughout the Pacific region, The Laughing Samoans over-exaggerate and mock Samoan immigrants’ interaction with the New Zealand Pakeha (NZ-Europeans) as well as among Samoans, who are the fastest-growing immigrant group in New Zealand.

In the Samoan culture, comic theatre is known as faleaitu (‘house of spirits’). Faleaitudeals with tensions and conflicts in the Samoan community by providing a comic mirror for the community. Fa’a Samoa (Samoan culture) is a chief-based system, wherein open criticism is discouraged. Hereniko (1994) explained that in faleaitu, actors are clowns and are seen as possessed by a spirit which criticises Samoan chiefs and institutions. Faleaitu is reminiscent of Bakhtin’s (1984) concept of the carnival, using masking and dissembling to turn the social world inside out to reconstruct social relations. The Laughing Samoans portray stereotypes of Samoans as educationally, economically, and socially backwards, in other words FOB (an importer’s acronym for “free on board”). Applied to Pacific Island immigrants, FOB became an acronym for “fresh off the boat” and is the derogatory equivalent to the term “nigger” applied to AfroAmericans.

In their comedy sketches as a type of faleaitu, The Laughing Samoans enact the stereotypes of Samoans as well as mock Samoans’ attempts to mimic Pakeha. In their performances, The Laughing Samoans speak a variety of English called Pasifika (Pacific) English. Some of the characteristics of Pasifika English are a heavy island (Samoan) accent, slurred pronunciation of English, the mistaken use of prepositions, and switching of sentence word-order. Dominant in The Laughing Samoans’ use of Pasifika English are features such as puns, homonyms, and clichés to create (mis)communication with Pakeha characters and critically comment on aspects of Fa’a Samoa.

An analysis of The Laughing Samoans’ performances indicates that what is going on is what Balme (2007:182) called reverse colonial mimicry, thereby contradicting Bhabha’s (1994:85-92) concept of mimicry, which may be described as reinforcing colonial cultural dominance. Through their use of Pasifika English and their mock faafafine (cross-dressing), The Laughing Samoans imitate the ways Pakeha as the dominant cultural group see themselves. In some comedy sketches the power and cultural dynamics are realigned and shifted so that Pakehabecome the FOB. In addition, The Laughing Samoans mocked the essentialist attitude many Samoan immigrants have of Fa’a Samoa, an attitude which results in the bastardisation of fundamental cultural values. Suggested in some comedy sketches of The Laughing Samoans is a fluid and contextual definition of the essence of Samoan in an immigrant destination country.

References:

Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1984. Rabelais and His World (Tr. Hélène Iswolsky). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Balme, Christopher. 2007. Pacific Performances. Theatricality and cross-cultural encounter in the South Seas. Hampshire and New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Bhabha, Homi. 1994. The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge.

Hereniko, Vilsoni. 1994. “Clowning as Political Commentary: Polynesia, then and now,” in The Contemporary Pacific 6:1, 1–28.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. 64-65 p.
Keyword [en]
Samoan, comedy, culture, Faleaitu, New Zealand, Paheka
National Category
Performing Arts Cultural Studies Specific Literatures Specific Languages
Research subject
Culture, Identity and Representations
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:du-13016OAI: oai:DiVA.org:du-13016DiVA: diva2:651484
Conference
The Stockholm 2013 Metaphor Festival, 29 August 2013 - 31 August 2013
Available from: 2013-09-26 Created: 2013-09-26 Last updated: 2015-11-27Bibliographically approved

Open Access in DiVA

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http://www.english.su.se/about-us/events/the-stockholm-metaphor-festival/previous-metaphor-festivals/the-2013-metaphor-festival-1.109886

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CiteExportLink to record
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