Newfie jokes are one of the many manifestations of jokes based on stereotypes. These "slot filler" jokes, as the American folklorist Alan Dundes called them, repeat the same form, and often the identical joke, substituting different ethnic, racial or regional groups, depending on the background of the joke-teller and audience. Joke targets adjust as society and culture changes, making jokes about particular groups unacceptable while allowing the joke to continue to be considered funny by using a different stereotyped group.
Although the Newfie stereotype of Canadians from Newfoundland is still a joke target, many people do find the stereotype offensive, as Miles Higgins noted in the Canada Free Press. There is recognition now that ethnic jokes of any type are hurtful and harmful in reinforcing stereotypes. As recently as 2013, Halifax, Nova Scotia, named a street "Newfie Lane" after a majority of people surveyed said the term was not offensive; however, 35 percent of respondents did find the word offensive.
Targeted ethnic groups tend to live at the edges of regions where the jokes are told, representing difference from the area's majority, according to Dr. Christie Davies, who studies jokes. The areas also are often poor compared to the majority of the region or country. Another trait is a group that has distinct speech patterns. These differences from the social mainstream allow a group's portrayal as less intelligent, naive or uninformed about current events and practices.