Great American Joke

Great American Joke

Pick two of the following below (750 words each). 1 Attitudes toward gender, women’s roles, and sexuality have changed radically since 1945, as reflected in stand up routines – from mother-in-law jokes to husband jokes to “Macho Man” to “Where’s my parade?” to “Detachable Pussy” to “There’s a bra stuck in my ass.” In Performing Marginality Joanne Gilbert observes, “By performing marginality [in this case, by women], comics perform power – which is to say, they depict for us how social relations could be transformed if their viewpoint were to prevail” [178]. Discuss gender and sexuality and “how social relations could be transformed” (or not) in three different routines by three different comics, referring to the readings. One of the comics must be Margaret Cho or Sarah Silverman, but the other two are up to you (and they could be male or female). 2 Examine the performance films we saw: Margret Cho, “I’m The One That I Want,” and Sarah Silverman, “Jesus is Magic.” Select one of them and analyze at least one aspect of the broad sweep of the show, focusing in the show’s structure or overall shtick, and analysis of at least two specific bits. 3 Geoffrey Baym in his chapter in Satire TV, notes that Stephen Colbert’s “ironic performance is continuously double voiced – his literal language always placed in juxtaposition with its implied meaning” (130). We have discussed the wide range of ways that stand up comedy is “double voiced,” particularly the use of irony, persona and parody. Discuss the ways Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart employ “double voiced” satire in their routines. Focus on at least one routine by each artist, referring to the readings. 4 Remember the quote from Louis D. Rubin in the syllabus: “’[T]he elementary, basic American humorous situation – the ‘great American joke’ . . . arises out of the gap between the cultural ideal and the everyday fact, with the ideal shown to be somewhat hollow and hypocritical, and the fact crude and disgusting.’ Discuss the “great American joke,” the ideal along with the crude and disgusting reality. Consider the comics we’ve discussed. Give examples from three different comics discussed in class. You can include comics presented in the profiles.


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