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By Andrew Stott

What's comedy? Andrew Stott tackles this question via an research of comedian varieties, theories and strategies, tracing the ancient definitions of comedy from Aristotle to Chris Morris's Brass Eye through Wilde and Hancock. instead of trying to produce a totalising definition of 'the comic', this quantity specializes in the importance of comedian 'events' via learn of assorted theoretical methodologies, together with deconstruction, psychoanalysis and gender idea, and gives case experiences of a couple of issues, starting from the drag act to the simplicity of slipping on a banana epidermis.

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Extra resources for Comedy (The New Critical Idiom)

Sample text

A further challenge to the critical tendency to reduce dissent to collusion in support of the absolutist tactics of the state appears in Michael Bristol’s Carnival and Theater (1985). Bristol takes issue with the new historicism’s conception of power as ‘always singular, a unity 36 COMEDY IN THE ACADEMY and also a plenitude’, as it means it would be ‘necessary for festivals to be completely unselfconscious occasions in which nothing was ever learned, and for the participants to cooperate, year after year, in an oppressive routine contrary to their interests’ (Bristol, 1985:15, 27).

In Frenchspeaking countries, carnival is called ‘Mardi Gras’, or fat Tuesday, helpfully signifying the sensual indulgence and misrule that comes before the Lenten fast. As a fixture of the medieval calendar, carnival was a special holiday that permitted the temporary suspension of social rules and codes of conduct and deference. The Flemish artist Peter Bruegel’s painting of a popular medieval and early modern theme, The Battle of Carnival and Lent (1559), presents Carnival as a gorged, corpulent, and self-indulgent figure, engaged in an endless contest with gaunt Lenten piety.

The Roman comedy of Plautus (c. 254–184 BC) and Terence (c. 190 or 180–159 BC), known as ‘New Comedy’ and composed of a body of only twenty-six plays that were adaptations of Greek originals, was built almost exclusively on plots and characters so similar that to modern readers the genre seems narrow and formulaic. From another perspective, however, it tells us that the concept of comedy was well defined, and that the form was specific, coherent, and specialized at this time. The demarcations of comedy would never be so clear again.

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