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The last laugh : stand-up comedy as postcolonial testimony
Silberman, Anna Grace
May 6, 2019
How do postcolonial subjects wield the comedic perspective through the genre of stand-up to center their marginality and disrupt normative narratives? In this paper, I explore stand-up as a decolonial option, considering the more specific question: Through what mechanisms do postcolonial comedians narrate and push back against whiteness and coloniality? In mapping out and mulling over 77 jokes from 34 postcolonial comedians, I pull common threads, finding that the comedians of my sample push back against a white and colonial epistemic and interpretive frame by (1) decentering whiteness, (2) deconstructing white logic, (3) addressing discomfort, (4) evidencing colonial wounds, and (5) playing with racialized identity. In investigating methods of postcolonial narration through stand-up, I hope to contribute to our understanding of the importance of counter-hegemonic cultural interventions, mapping contemporary stand-up comedy into the longstanding oral tradition of marginalized people, an oral tradition founded upon solidarity, resistance, and the interplay of comedy and tragedy.
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