1st Edition

Punching Up in Stand-Up Comedy Speaking Truth to Power

Edited By Rashi Bhargava, Richa Chilana Copyright 2023
    276 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge India

    276 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge India

    276 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge India

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    Punching Up in Stand-Up Comedy explores the new forms, voices and venues of stand-up comedy in different parts of the world and its potential role as a counterhegemonic tool for satire, commentary and expression of identity especially for the disempowered or marginalised.

    The title brings together essays and perspectives on stand-up and satire from different cultural and political contexts across the world which raise pertinent issues regarding its role in contemporary times, especially with the increased presence of OTT platforms and internet penetration that allows for easy access to this art form. It examines the theoretical understanding of the different aspects of the humour, aesthetics and politics of stand-up comedy, as well as the exploration of race, gender, politics and conflicts, urban culture and LGBTQ+ identities in countries such as Indonesia, Finland, France, Iran, Italy, Morocco, India and the USA. It also asks the question whether, along with contesting and destabilising existing discursive frameworks and identities, a stand-up comic can open up a space for envisaging a new social, cultural and political order?

    This book will appeal to people interested in performance studies, media, popular culture, digital culture, sociology, digital sociology and anthropology, and English literature.

    Chapter 9 of this book is freely available as a downloadable Open Access PDF at http://www.taylorfrancis.com under a Creative Commons (CC-BY) 4.0 license. Funded by the University of Helsinki.


    Rashi Bhargava and Richa Chilana

    Part I Punching In and Punching Up: Origins, Limits and Possibilities

    1 The History of Moroccan Stand-Up Comedy: From Storytelling to Charged Humour

    Mohamed Bassou and Rebecca Krefting

    2 Standing Up for Speaking Up: Stand-Up Comedy in the Indonesian Context

    Nina Setyaningsih and Anisa Larassati

    3 The Jamel Comedy Club: (Mis)understanding Stand-Up Comedy’s Relationship with Urban Culture in France

    Jonathan Ervine

    4 Stand-Up Comedy as Escape: Caste and Media Infrastructure in Mumbai

    Aju James

    5 Voices from the Comedy Contact Zone: Regarding Performative Strategies Toward Race and the Transnational Body

    Rachel E. Blackburn

    Part II Gendered Experiences and Stand-Up Comedy

    6 Humour as Antihistamine in the Discourse of Persian Stand-Up Comedy: Female Stand-Up Comedians in Iran

    Mohammad Ali Heidari-Shahreza

    7 Asserting Cultural Citizenship through Situated Comedy: Female Comedians in India

    Madhavi Shivaprasad

    8 Notes on Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, Adorno’s Kulturindustrie and Feminism

    Christian Berger

    Part III Comics and the Audience: Connections, Ethics and Efficacy?

    9 Awkward Connections: Stand-Up Comedy as Affective Arrangement

    Antti Lindfors

    10 The Revolution Will Be a Joke: Semiotic Ideologies of Ethics and Efficacy in Stand-Up Comedy

    Marianna Keisalo

    11 Standing Up for a Cause: The Cathartic and Persuasive Power of Stand-Up Comedy

    Margherita Dore

    12 Which Direction Do We Punch? The Powers and Perils of Humour against the New Conspiracism

    Chris A. Kramer


    Rashi Bhargava is currently an Assistant Professor in Sociology at the Department of Sociology and Social Work, Christ (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru. Prior to joining Christ, she taught at the Department of Sociology, Maitreyi College, and other colleges in University of Delhi for almost a decade. She completed her doctorate from the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her research interests include politics and culture in North-East India, sociology of gender and urban spaces, visual culture and disciplinary practices of sociology and social anthropology in South Asia. Her recent publications include Social Scientist in South Asia: Personal Narratives, Social Forces and Negotiations co-edited with Achla Pritam Tandon and Gopi Tripathy and Materiality and Visuality in North East India: An Interdisciplinary Perspective co-edited with Tiplut Nongbri.

    Richa Chilana is currently teaching at the School of Liberal Studies, UPES, Dehradun, as an Assistant Professor. She has a decade-long experience of teaching English Literature at the Department of English, Maitreyi College, University of Delhi. Her doctoral thesis titled “Negotiating the Veil: Purdah in Twentieth Century Indian English Writing” (Centre for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University) engaged with the complexities of purdah as a garment, an ideology and division of space on the basis of gender. She has taught, has an avid interest and has published research articles and book chapters in the fields of gender studies, Indian English writing, popular fiction, and literature and cinema.

    "The current times are such that one must stand up and be counted, stare straight into the eyes of the nefarious powers that be, throw punchlines well above one's weight, and laugh out loud. And this is what this very timely book teaches and beseeches us to do. A must-read for all those who, even in these grim times, believe that truth must be spoken to power, and that too with a smile, nay a guffaw!"

    Professor Saugata Bhaduri, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

    "This intricate analysis of punching up is timely and fascinating. The contributors use diverse methods and approaches to explore what it means to punch up across a range of contexts. The international focus is particularly welcome, with discussion of both established stand-up comedy scenes and more recent additions to stand-up’s increasingly global presence. A brilliant book."

    Dr Sophie Quirk, University of Kent, UK