When the American President speaks in a way that is later characterized as joking/kidding, a wide range of interpretations become possible. At a minimum, there are two basic interpretations: serious and non-serious.At the other extreme, there may be as many nuanced interpretations as there are audiences for the discourse. In this study, I will first examine the “just/only joking” strategy, considering how it fits within a theoretical understanding of humorous discourse, and lay out the prototypical strategic moves. Then I will explore how the two main audiences (the currently polarized political groupings in the United States) tend to interpret the “joking” in relation to the performance style of President Donald J. Trump. Using three examples, I will attempt to show how the same utterance can be interpreted by one audience as a harmless joke and by the other as a grave threat.
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