During the May ‘68 student revolts Marx Brothers found their way into the French, American and Slovenian political sphere via political slogans and posters. At roughly that time, witticisms like “Groucho Marxism” and “Marxism of the Marx Brothers variety” also came into being. In Marx Brothers’ films, numerous scholars have spontaneously detected an anarchist or Marxist critique of society. Fewer are those, however, who have situated the Marx Brothers at the opposite end of the barricades. In this article, we attempt to advance past such contrary positions and stake our claim in the suggestion by Jean-Paul Simon, for whom Marx Brothers – Groucho in particular – are the proponents of a “reality principle of the American capitalist society”, or, more precisely, a “principle of profitability”. The humor of Marx Brothers corresponds, in its essential dispositions, to the mechanism of pleasure, which Freud has introduced in his theory of joke. And while a tendency to economize is of key importance for the techniques, which a joke uses to maximize the pleasure of laughter, a certain verbal wastefulness is characteristic for Marx Brothers. In disentangling the opposition between miserliness and wastefulness in Marx Brothers’ verbal humor we will employ Marx’s concept of the “rational miser”, as well as the concept of “verbal usury” by Marc Shell.

The integral version of this article can be found in the printed KINO!