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What Steinem Could Learn From Schumer: Abjection in Female Stand-Up Comedy

Butler, Clara

It seems like female stand-up comedy is more prevalent than ever with a succession of new female stand-up specials being promoted on HBO, Netflix, and Comedy Central. Some popular culture commentators even declare that, “Women are now close to outright dominating the comedy landscape” (Schager 2015). But considering that approximately 83% of stand-up specials aired between 2014 and 2015 belonged to men, how could women be dominating comedy, stand-up comedy especially? (“List of Netflix Comedies”, “HBO: Comedy”, “Comedy Central Stand-Up Specials”). And where is the research and scholarship about female stand-up comedians, since both the feminist movement and the comedy industry could benefit from their subversive humor? This project wishes to explore the ways that female stand-up comedians are shut out of both the academic discourse on feminism and discourse on stand-up comedy while disproving claims that we live in a “post- female stand-up comedy” society. Female comedians are still considered abject, both because of their gender and historicized stereotypes that have embedded “women aren’t funny” into the cultural landscape, yet by utilizing this very condition, they are able to critique hierarchies within comedy and insert feminist ideals into their sets. Through comedic structures like self-deprecation and impressionistic comedy, Chelsea Peretti, Anjelah Johnson, and Tig Notaro all use abjection in their recorded stand-up specials to highlight the (unrealistic) standards of femininity while also deconstructing other institutionalized structures like racism, heteronormativity, and masculinity.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies (Barnard College)
Thesis Advisors
Bernstein, Elizabeth
Degree
B.A., Barnard College
Published Here
February 1, 2017
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