Madeline Lane-McKinleyDec 4, 2022
Comedy Against Work
Utopian Longing in Dystopian Times
Common Notions 2022
Comedy is so frequently the topic of cultural dialogue, but it is rarely taken seriously as an object of study. Comedy Against Work: Utopian Longing in Dystopian Times (Common Notions, 2022) offers a major contribution to theorizing comedy but also thinking about the particular politics of the genre today. Work is a joke and often the butt of our jokes. Madeline Lane-McKinley argues that in comedy, we find ways to endure and cope with the world of work, but also to question the conditions of capitalist life. When work is slowly killing us and destroying the planet and, at the same time, something impossible to imagine life without, Lane-McKinley considers the possibility of comedy as a revolutionary practice. By appealing to laughter we can counteract many of our shared miseries under capitalism, including our relationship to work.
But to think through these revolutionary aspects of comedy, as a practice, also involves troubling comedy's relationship to the global right turn of the last decade. Stand-up comedy's claims to the artistic freedom of hate speech in comedy represent a fascistic current of our world today, blurring the boundaries between left and "alt" right. Against this current, Comedy Against Work draws from a tradition of feminist critical utopianism, Marxist-feminism, and contemporary cultural criticism to reflect on an anti-fascist poetics of comedy, grounded in a critique of work.
In this conversation with host Annie Berke, Dr. Lane-McKinley discusses the origins of her project, her decision to include her own story and life in her academic analysis, and the comedic virtuosity of the feminist killjoy.
Madeline Lane-McKinley is a writer, professor, and Marxist-feminist with a PhD in Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is a founding member of Blind Field: A Journal of Cultural Inquiry. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Los Angeles Review of Books, Boston Review, The New Inquiry, Entropy, GUTS, and Cultural Politics. She is also the author of the chapbook Dear Z and a contributor to The Museum of Capitalism.
Annie Berke is the Film Editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books and author of Their Own Best Creations: Women Writers in Postwar Television (University of California Press, 2022). Her scholarship and criticism has been published in Feminist Media Histories, Public Books, Literary Hub, The A.V. Club, and The Washington Post. She earned her PhD in Film/Media and America Studies from Yale University.