Jared N. Champion and Peter C. KunzeApr 19, 2022
Taking a Stand
Contemporary US Stand-Up Comedians As Public Intellectuals
University Press of Mississippi 2021
Stand-up comedians have a long history of walking a careful line between serious and playful engagement with social issues: Lenny Bruce questioned the symbolic valence of racial slurs, Dick Gregory took time away from the stage to speak alongside Martin Luther King Jr., and—more recently—Tig Notaro challenged popular notions of damaged or abject bodies. Stand-up comedians deploy humor to open up difficult topics for broader examination, which only underscores the social and cultural importance of their work.
Edited by Jared Champion and Peter Kunze, Taking a Stand: Contemporary US Stand-Up Comedians as Public Intellectuals (University Press of Mississippi, 2021) draws together essays that contribute to the analysis of the stand-up comedian as public intellectual since the 1980s. The chapters explore stand-up comedians as contributors to and shapers of public discourse via their live performances, podcasts, social media presence, and political activism.
Each chapter highlights a stand-up comedian and their ongoing discussion of a cultural issue or expression of a political ideology/standpoint: Lisa Lampanelli’s use of problematic postracial humor, Aziz Ansari’s merging of sociology and technology, or Maria Bamford’s emphasis on mental health, to name just a few. Taking a Stand offers a starting point for understanding the work stand-up comedians do as well as its reach beyond the stage. Comedians influence discourse, perspectives, and even public policy on myriad issues, and this book sets out to take those jokes seriously.
Rebekah Buchanan is an Associate Professor of English and Director of English Education at Western Illinois University. Her research focuses on feminism, activism, and literacy practices in youth culture, specifically through zines and music.