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Jokes in popular culture: the characterisation of the accountant

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Abstract:

Purpose ‐ The accountant has been characterised in popular culture as dull and boring. Accounting scholarship consistently describes this stereotype as negative. The purpose of this research is to enhance our understanding of this stereotype by comparing the characterisation of the accountant found in contemporary jokes with a similar characterisation found in commedia dell'arte, which is a form of improvisational theatre. Design/methodology/approach ‐ This research employs netnography to identify the stereotype of the accountant portrayed in jokes on social networking sites. To enrich our understanding of the stereotype of the characterisation of the accountant in contemporary jokes, it is compared with the characterisation of il dottore, the stock character of the professional man in commedia dell'arte. Findings ‐ The characterisation of the accountant in contemporary jokes is consistent with characterisations of the accountant in other areas of popular culture, confirming that the stereotype is widely entrenched in popular culture. Contemporary jokes provide a more detailed characterisation than previously identified in accounting scholarship. Since the stereotype of il dottore in commedia dell'arte resembles the stereotype of the accountant as portrayed in contemporary jokes, studying commedia dell'arte provides an approach that enhances our understanding of the characterisation of the accountant in popular culture. Originality/value ‐ The contribution of this research to accounting scholarship is the deployment of commedia dell'arte to capture the essence of the stereotype of the accountant as portrayed in popular culture. Extending the definition of popular culture to include contemporary jokes brings a unique use of netnography to accounting scholarship.

Keywords: Accountants; Commedia dell'arte; Jokes; Netnography; Popular culture; Stereotype

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09513571211225105

Publication date: May 4, 2012

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