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Title:Open mic? Gender and the meritocratic myth of authenticity in the cultural production of stand-up comedy
Author(s):Brown, Stephanie
Director of Research:Valdivia, Angharad
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Valdivia, Angharad
Doctoral Committee Member(s):McCarthy, Cameron; Cole, CL; Turnock, Julie
Department / Program:Inst of Communications Rsch
Discipline:Communications and Media
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):gender, gender and women's studies, stand-up comedy, comedy studies, humor, media studies, industry studies, ethnography, discourse analysis
Abstract:This dissertation demonstrates the ways in which gender plays a role in the validating of authenticity and merit in the cultural and industrial spaces of stand-up comedy. Merit and authenticity are arbitrary signifiers invoked by comics, fans, critics, and industry gatekeepers to protect the privilege of straight, white men who continue to dominate the field. I argue that the ideology of comedic authenticity is a means through which to police the boundaries of stand-up comedy while masking its underlying sexism, racism, and homophobia. More specifically, I argue that women, operationalized here as an industrial identity category, are constructed as comedy outsiders who must continually prove their worth through a shifting and slippery set of aesthetic and cultural norms and conditions. Further I explore the emotional and material labor women must perform to achieve success within the field, both on the local level and the industrial level. I draw attention to gatekeeping in stand-up comedy by theorizing it not as a type of rhetoric or artistic form, but as an industry with a particular culture. To this end, I connect three case-studies that highlight gendered gatekeeping in stand-up comedy: 1) A televised debate between writer Lindy West and comic Jim Norton about rape jokes and the subsequent violent backlash West dealt with on social media; 2) Reviews by television critics of female-led comedies that reinforce masculine standards of quality comedy; and 3) Interviews with women in Chicago and Champaign-Urbana’s comedy scenes that explore how they adapt to fit into masculine, and oftentimes unwelcoming, spaces or how they create their own spaces, classes, festivals, and shows. Through these case-studies, I argue that the study of women in comedy must move beyond attempts to fit women into already existing paradigms and instead use such scholarship to question common sense assumptions about humor and comedy.
Issue Date:2018-11-05
Type:Thesis
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/102787
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Stephanie Brown
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-02-07
Date Deposited:2018-12


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