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HUMOUR-RESEARCH  1998

HUMOUR-RESEARCH 1998

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Subject:

Re: Standup Comedy and 'Otherness'

From:

"Jack Napier" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Sun, 13 Sep 1998 17:34:35 +1000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (63 lines)

Just a few cents worth...

>My name is Alicia, and I'm a standup comic.  I'm writing a paper on some
>theories I'm working with which at the moment are very broad and should
>probably be narrowed down.  Presently I'm interested in difference
>('otherness') as it relates to humor, especially standup.  In my empirical
>studies, I've observed a sharp contradiction in standup comedy (and humor
>in general).  It purports to challenge authority, injustice, status quo,


I tend to see this as something similar to wearing blue jeans to signify
your individuality.  People affirm these things every day but like to
entertain fantasies about the rebels they really are.  I guess it's also a
release from the stress caused by serving various authorities throughout
life.

The challenge to authority/books/teachers-with-dirty-looks is really quite a
shallow justification for what is essentially ad hominem comedy.

>etc, yet the majority of comedy is produced by heterosexual white males,
>who are in effect reinscribing the power they say they're fighting.  Not

>only is it difficult for 'marked' people (i.e. women, people of color,
>etc.) to break into comedy, for some reason, it is difficult for us to
>'sell' an act that is unconventional, absurdist, fringe, etc.  (for
>example, how many female comics do you see who are like Andy Kaufman?).
>Why is this?  If anyone has information or ideas on the topic, I'd like to
>hear from you.


I guess it's because we live in a masculinised society.  There is a great
deal of asymetry in our culture.  ie Both men's and women's magazines
feature women on the front of them.  Conditioning affects the way we
interpret life experiences and the beliefs we adopt.  Most people are either
masculine or submissive to masculinity.  It is a trend which is changing but
there is a long way to go.  Until then I suspect comedy will be no different
to any other occupation where there is a glass ceiling.  It will be harder
for non-masculine comics to connect with their audience because of different
beliefs and conditioning.  There is no easy way around it either.  ie Women
comics who try to imitate the male style just don't quite make it work.  If
you're offended at this or don't quite see what I mean, imagine a so-called
SNAG who just doesn't quite come off as genuine while trying to be like one
of your girlfriends.

The two paths I've noticed non-masculine comics most successfully taking
are: 1) integrate a personal perspective with the derogatory masculine
perspective most of the audience can relate to, 2) openly attack the
weaknesses of masculinity.

The former can work really well, but I wonder if people don't feel a little
guilt after laughing at the elaborate self put-downs of say, a handicapped
comic.  The latter also seems to work well but carries a different type of
comic baggage; people may be left feeling just a little uncomfortable
afterwards.  It's probably good for them to do so, but that doesn't mean
they will appreciate it and it thereby makes it harder for such a comic to
succeed.

Jack Napier



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