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The Filth and the Filthier: Plumbing the Depths of Controversial Stand-up Comedy

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dc.contributor.advisor Gabbard, Krin en_US
dc.contributor.author Springer, Sean en_US
dc.contributor.other Department of Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies en_US
dc.date.accessioned 2017-09-20T16:52:13Z
dc.date.available 2017-09-20T16:52:13Z
dc.date.issued 2015-08-01 en_US
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/11401/77214 en_US
dc.description 154 pgs en_US
dc.description.abstract This dissertation is a genealogy of the filthy stand-up comedian in the United States. Using case studies of five so-called filthy stand-up comedians, each chapter looks at how the filthy label has functioned as a floating signifier that is applied to certain comedians in ways that conceal what is actually transgressive about their performances. The first chapter compares Lenny Bruce's legacy to Richard Pryor's, arguing that they have misleadingly become equated as two comedians who apparently transcended their filthy words. In actual fact, white critics saw Bruce as a filthy Other because he aligned himself with Jewish and African-American cultures. In contrast, white critics excused Pryor's filthiness on the grounds that it was ' authentically' ' urban' or black. The subsequent erasure of their differing receptions led to their shared status as stand-up comedy's supreme practitioners, against whom all future filthy comedians would be judged. One such future comedian is chapter two's subject, Andrew ' Dice' Clay, who critics claimed failed as a comedian because he never transcended his filth. What critics have ignored is that Clay operated within the subgenre of put-on comedy. Given that Clay's character intentionally reveled in his boorishness, critics concluded that Clay had failed as an artist and that his fans were too wretched to care. Clay and his fans were filthy, they implied, because they were ' white trash,' i.e. white and working-class. While Clay's filthiness complemented his gender role, the same cannot be said for the third chapter's subjects, Amy Schumer and Sommore, both of whom manage to appear feminine as they use four-letter words, racial epithets, sexual imagery, and scatological references in their acts. Schumer earns the audience's approval to tell filthy jokes because they recognize her character as an ironic version of the Girl Gone Wild archetype of popular culture. Unlike Schumer, who with a wink and a nod to the mostly white audience convinces them that she is not as hypersexual as she pretends to be, Sommore performs before mostly black audiences, who understand that black women's sexuality is often erased by, or demeaned within, popular culture. Throughout her performances, Sommore stresses her individuality so as to discourage anyone from seeing her filthy behavior as confirmation of black stereotypes. en_US
dc.description.sponsorship This work is sponsored by the Stony Brook University Graduate School in compliance with the requirements for completion of degree. en_US
dc.format Monograph en_US
dc.format.medium Electronic Resource en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.publisher The Graduate School, Stony Brook University: Stony Brook, NY. en_US
dc.subject.lcsh American studies en_US
dc.subject.other Amy Schumer, Andrew " Dice" Clay, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Sommore, stand-up comedy en_US
dc.title The Filth and the Filthier: Plumbing the Depths of Controversial Stand-up Comedy en_US
dc.type Dissertation en_US
dc.mimetype Application/PDF en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Kaplan, E. Ann en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Harvey, Robert en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember Reich, Jacqueline en_US
dc.contributor.committeemember King, Robert en_US

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