From Deniz Bozer (ed.), The Birth and Growth of a Department: Department of English Language and Literature, 25th Anniversary, (Ankara: Hacettepe University, 1990): 169-77.
Ünsal Özünlü


....  Historians divide the historical development of Turkish Rumour into 2 periods:

There are striking differences between these two periods:

The beginning of the first period is unknown. It lasted until 1870 when the first humour magazine appeared. As the printing press was not introduced in this period, the written materials of humour included very few manuscripts only, which were called "letaif", which were the collections of anecdotes and jokes. These manuscripts existed only in the private libraries of rich people, and the middle-class people could not read them. This is why humour at that time enabled only the development of Meddah (the Public Story-Teller), Karagaz (Shadow-Puppet Theatre), and Ortaoyunu (Old Turkish Theatrical Show).

Meddah was a device of entertainment in all the eastern countries, and at the same time, individually he was a master of humour. He imitated, on the stage, all the persons he talked about. He had only two accessories, a handkerchief on his shoulder and a walking-stick in his hand. By the help of the handkerchief, he sometimes hid his face and mouth, cleaned himself off, and in this way found enough time to think about the coming stages and phases of his story he was just creating for the first time on the stage on that occasion. With his walking-stick it was also possible for him to make gestures and sound effects. The Meddah, in a way, was a three-dimensional audio-visual humorous magazine of these days.

In the historical process, Karagbz and Hacivat followed the Meddah. Karagoz, as a theatrical device, represented the whole of Turkish wit and pleasure. In Karagoz plays, there were two major characters, and most parts of the plays consisted of the dialogues of Karagoz and Racivat though there were other minor characters on the stage.
Karagoz and Hacivat, as characters on the stage, were exact opposites. It is clearly seen that from their contrariness the humour elements come out. Human beings laugh at contrariness, oppositeness, contrasts, contradictions, antitheses and reverses. Hacivat was a bureaucrat, Karagoz was the people's representative; Hacivat spoke Ottoman Turkish, Karagoz spoke pure Turkish. Hacivat used poetical and literary language, Karagoz used the daily speech of the people.

Literary critics agree that Ortaoyunu was the continuation of Karagoz and Hacivat, that came, with three-dimensions, down to earth from the stage. It included many characters and it was considered an early representation of dramatic plays.

The period of printing is represented in humour by the first humour rnagazine Diyojen (Diogenes) as a result of the attempts made by Namik Kemal, one of famous Turkish patriots and poets, and Teodor Kasap, one of the so-called New Ottomans in Paris. As this magazine had a foreign name, they stopped Diyojen and started Hayal (Imagination), which included Karagoz and Hacivat too.

During this period of more than 30 years, Sultan Abdulhamit, who was in power at that tirne, prohibited humour magazines from being published, so it was impossible to print a humour magazine within the borders of the Ottoman Empire. As a result, like Diyojen, which came out in France, Hayal was published in France and then in England. Some time later, humourous magazines began to appear one after the other in different parts of Europe and the Middle East e.g., in another district in England Dolap, in Geneva Bebe Ruhi and Tokmak, in Cairo Pinti, Abdulhamit, Curcuna, Deccal and Hasbihal were some of the many humour magazines. After these magazines, Caylak, Cingirakli Tatar and Sarivari appeared in print.

Diyojen is not only a starting point in Turkish humour, but it provides an important school for  talented writers. M.Ali Bey was one of the writers for Diyojen and he translated one of Moliere's plays under the title of Ayyar Hamza, and published his memories about his travel to India under the title of Resimli Seyahat Jurnali (A Pictorial Journal of My Travels). His most important work was Lehce-tul Hakayik (The Realistic Meanings of Words), which was intended to be a collection of associative meanings of words in the humour of that tirne. This work of M.Ali Bey, was an attack on the regime of Sultan Abdulhamit. Like the other journals of humour, Lehce-tul Hakayik was published, in Egypt, by Ali Muzaffer Bey, a friend of the author. Later on, after the Second Constitutional Reform, Ebuzziya Tevfik Bey, another friend of M.Ali Bey, published the book in Istanbul.

Caylak, another turning point in the history of humour must be mentioned here, because Copur Mehmet Bey, the publisher, had found a new way of humour to attack and criticise the politics of that time. In the years 1877 and 1878 there was a war between the Ottomans and the Russians. The political events that were criticised were intended to be taken from the mouths of Russian politicians and soldiers.

The Second Constitutional Reform is an important period in the history of humour in Anatolia. In this period the censorship on humour magazines was abolished. Very many humourous magazines began to be published. Some of them came out only once or twice. Whichever magazine was sold out, continued. During the Second Constitutional Reform, Kalem was a conside popular magazine. Cern, a cartoonist, who drew cartoons in this magazine earned his reputation during that time, and prepared a Dictionary of Politics, after having been impressed by some proverbs.

During the years of the First World War, there was only one humour magazine, Karagoz, in Turkey. In this period and after that, the subjects which were the targets of humour were politics, organised religion and the attitudes and behaviours of the Bektasi Sect. After the First World War, Zumrut Anka and Aydede were the outstanding magazines.
Up to the Second Constitutional Reform, women were utilised in humourous magazines as a subject, but after this reformation, they were accepted.

After the War of Independence (1919-22), apart from the political situation in the country, household affairs, family problerns and the generation gap began to appear.

The same tendency of ridiculing both political affairs and some events in daily life was seen after the 1930's, too. Up to 1946 when there was only one political party in Turkey, the only humorous magazine was Karagoz, which appeared this time as a newspaper. During the years following 1950, the most popular humour magazine was Akbaba, which opened new horizons in the humour of Turkey.

During the 1960's Ustura and Karakedi were the two magazines which are worth mentioning although they did not survive for long. After the 1960's there appeared, here and there some other magazines in the field of humour, but they could not continue to hold their readers' interest very long.

Within the last decade (1980-1990), there appeared an explosion in Turkish humour when many humorous magazines as well as books on humour began to come out. These last ten years included more humorous magazines and books than the past 110 years, when people were always eager to publish any kind of humorous material. In the past 10 years, the increasing demand for cartoons in magazines made it possible for many different humorous magazines to appear. After the 1980s the outstanding magazine was Girgir, and later on other magazines gradually appeared in accordance with the form, size and colour of Girgir, such as Avni, Firt, Firfir, Carsaf, Hibir, Limon, Digil and Pismis Kelle. All these new ones seemed to be imitations of Cirgir although it was obvious that they each contributed a great deal to the development of humour in Turkey. Two others were printed under the titles of Fil and Dinazor, but they now longer appear.
Once the market for humrous magazines had expanded, ephemeral and printed humour started a new period. Apart from short texts and cartoons, other elements texts such as graffiti, witty remarks, nonsensical puzzles, puns and jokes began to appear in book form. Among the books of this kind that started this new period were Cilay Kutal's Biz Duvar Yazisiyiz, and an anonymous reply to this book, Biz de Duvar Yazisiyiz, Metin Ustundag's Langadank and Heey.. Kimil ... ... ...,  Mustafa Kemal Zorti's Netekim, Gani Mujde's Peynir Gemisi, Vedat Ozdemiroglu's Kaldinin Yazilari, and Adnan Ersan's Gulduren Espriler and Gulduren Soguk Bilmeceler.

As the main theme of humour is people, magazines and books of humour criticise human deeds, point at human faults and mistakes, and sometimes guilt and crimes, too, and make the readers laugh while they are thinking.
For years many scholars tried to explain how and why and at what kind of things people laugh. They wanted to formulate their ideas in different theories of humour .... If four theories of humour are applied to an anecdote by taking one as a sample, observations can be made from different perspectives:

The Superiority Theory (where people laugh at the foolishness of the figures in a joke) admits that Temel and Cemal are foolish in that they are unable to estimate the very long distance between Anatolia and America. A person who has read the anecdote becomes certain that he, himself, would not behave so stupidly as TemeI and Cemal did, and he is relieved and he laughs as an escape. From the angle of Incongruity Theory (where people are shocked by the apparently unexpected end to the joke), first, Temel's suggestion to swim that very long distance should have been refuted under normal circumstances. On the other hand, Cemal, too, agrees with Temel. Second, when they come near Cuba, just as they have swum all that distance, they should by rights continue until they land on the American shore. On the other hand, Cemal wants to swim back until he comes back to Anatolia, which is again impossible, and unexpected. This makes people laugh, because both of them try to do the impossible of impossible. In the framework of the Psychoanalytic Theory (where every person has a hidden aggressive desire within them, which is relwased through humour), Temel wants to challenge Cemal in his intention to swim as far across the seas as the American Continent. This kind of challenge supposes that Temel, himself, is superior to Cemal, and that all that distance, thousands of miles, means nothing to him. This sort of desire makes people laugh, because aggression, passion and emotion are all in excess. The Cognitive Theory (where points of logic and illogic conflict with one another) attracts the attention to the points at which Temel proposes to swim across the sea, which is impossible for any person to do. He, himself, is unable to realise this. Similarly, Cemal is incapable of reckoning the distance, and accepts Temel's offer to do the impossible. Both of them are so foolish that they do not have any concept of time, place, manner, strength, distance, ability, power, etc. This makes people laugh ....