Critical Laughter: The Standup Comedian's Critique of Culture at Home

  • Kelsey Timler


One of the main mandates of cultural anthropology is the study of assumptions within a given culture. This analysis is echoed by contemporary standup comedians, who perform ethnographic cultural critiques within their own cultures. Although both anthropologists and comedians practice participant observation, I will argue that the comedian’s use of hyperbole and humour creates a safe space in which sensitive socio-political topics can be explored, and that the comedian presents a dynamic oral narrative that allows for interactions with current events and the audience. Drawing from contemporary ethnographic and comedic works I will analyze both representational forms, suggesting ways in which anthropologists can look to comedians for new ways of dealing with issues of representation, subjectivity, and accessibility.

Author Biography

Kelsey Timler
Kelsey Timler is an Anthropology honours student at the University of British Columbia. Her research interests focus within medical anthropology, specifically the improvement of pediatric healthcare through engagement with the narratives of vulnerable populations. Through her research into these sensitive topics, as well as through personal experience, the therapeutic uses of humour have become one of her interests.
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