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The Artillery Of Critique Versus The General Uncritical Concsensus: Standing Up To Propaganda, 1990-1999

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posted on 22.05.2021, 16:12 by Andrew Alexander Monti
In 2011, leading comedy scholars singled-out two shortcomings in stand-up comedy research. The first shortcoming suggests a theoretical void: that although “a number of different disciplines take comedy as their subject matter, the opportunities afforded to the inter-disciplinary study of comedy are rarely, if ever, capitalized on.”¹ The second indicates a methodological void: there is a “lack of literature on ‘how’ to analyse stand-up comedy.”² This research project examines the relationship between political consciousness and satirical humour in stand-up comedy and attempts to redress these two shortcomings. It offers a new theoretical model and a new set of longitudinal data: the political content of American stand-up comedy over the course of the decade from 1990-1999. It capitalizes on the interdisciplinary study of comedy, which scholars describe as a “huge cultural phenomenon,”3 by offering a plausible context for the manifestation of satirical stand-up comedy content. The development of the context proceeds in logical steps integrating insights from five realms of inquiry – language science, political economy, propaganda studies, mass media effects and humour theory – into a consistent theoretical framework. The interdisciplinary effort offers a new method to analyse stand-up comedy, captured by the symbolic formula SC2={OGB,CERP}, whereby the satirical content of stand-up comedy (SC2) manifests itself in the association of two sets of statements: operative group beliefs (OGBs) and contrary empirical rational propositions (CERPs). As a whole, this research project falls within the conflict theory tradition of sociological research.¹ It argues that structurally, the aggregate demand for stand-up satire is stimulated by the dominion exerted by mass media over mass opinions. Given that elite “control of society, while certainly manifest in material modes of production, is culturally embedded and naturalized in the minds of the people via its hegemony over discourse,”² the content of stand-up satire cannot be properly examined unless the political economic repercussions of mass communication are taken into account. Mass propaganda and satire are inextricably entwined. This dissertation hypothesizes that the former fuels the general uncritical consensus while the latter acts as the artillery of critique. 1 Lockyer et al., 2011:99. 2 1 Klaehn et al., 2010:10. 2 Theobald, 2006:26. iv





Doctor of Philosophy


Communication and Culture

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type