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ERIC Number: ED534487
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 223
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-2670-0537-3
How Comedians Learn to Use Humor to Raise Awareness and Consciousness about Social and Political Issues
Goldman, Nancy Ann
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, Teachers College, Columbia University
During these unprecedented complicated times, there is an equally unprecedented need for an informed citizenry. Many of us watch democracy get played out on the 24-hour news networks. Still others bear witness to it in the social commentaries embedded in the entertainment provided by late night comedians like Jon Stewart. Humor provides a largely acceptable means by which to hold our ideologies up to the light for inspection and critique. By challenging our prevailing assumptions, highlighting absurdities about social and political issues, and showing us alternative ways of thinking and being, these comedians are raising our awareness and consciousness. In this way they are educating. The sources of data for this qualitative case study were interviews with 14 elite comedians, a focus group of 8 comedians, and a document review. The three findings indicate that (1) the primary way in which comedians raise awareness and about social and political issues is by presenting alternative perspectives; (2) in order to do so, they need to know the social/political landscape and need to question prevailing points of view; and (3) they learn to do this through informal means by drawing on past experience, observation, and learning by doing. A noteworthy commonality between several participants who have a questioning point of view is that they belong to a minority--they're either gay, Black, bi-cultural, Jewish, female, or some combination. A fundamental rule of comedy is to attack those in power, not those that are powerless. Humor provides a vehicle for the oppressed to experience liberation as well as an opportunity for praxis, reflection, and action. Freire calls this process of becoming aware of the oppressive forces in one's life "conscientization." These comedians engage us in that process. However, having the perspective of an outsider is not necessarily defined by one's outward appearance or group identification. Sensitivity to hypocrisy and absurdity, and the ability to question the status quo, is available to all through the use of humor. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A