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.

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