When did comedians start saying ‘punching up’ and ‘punching down’?

They’re not in American dictionaries yet, but the terms, ‘punching up’ and ‘punching down’ are on the lips of many comedians. With the help of linguist and journalist Ben Zimmer and British comedian Richard Herring, we trace the migration of these words from sports to cable news to comedy. Along the way, we catch up with the history of performers and writers targeting the rich and powerful (punching up) or mocking the oppressed and vulnerable (punching down).

In reporting this episode, we owe a debt of gratitude to this piece in The Baffler and this episode of WTF with Marc Maron.

Music in this episode by: Zorro; Sarah, The Illstrumentalist; peerless; Farrell Wooten; Hell Nasty; Tigerblood Jewel; Mary Riddle; Divorce Applause; Amaranth Cove; VARPU. Read a transcript here.

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1 comment
  • You made it sound like this insider term that went mainstream.

    But then explained what everyone already knew. It was a mainstream term that went insider.

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