This essay theorizes how black feminist comedic performance queers white supremacist and heteronormative notions of time by centering Wanda Sykes's performance in her comedy special I'ma Be Me and her performance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner—both in 2009. Sykes's jokes articulate how queer bodies of color experience temporalities that are in constant tension with dominant narrations of “coming out,” national heritage, and white nostalgia. I argue that Sykes uses comedic performance to: (1) reveal the limits of “progressive” coming out narratives for black queer women, (2) reinstate black subjectivity into US collective memory, (3) debunk myths of the United States as “post-” identity politics, and (4) challenge broader publics to think beyond linear and binary constructions of identity/ies, space, and time.
Cracking Up Time: Black Feminist Comedic Performance and Queer Temporalities in the Standup of Wanda Sykes
Katelyn Hale Wood is Assistant Professor in the Department of Drama at the University of Virginia. Her scholarship centers on black feminist comedic performance and queer memory. She is also a dramaturge and performer. This essay is a revised version of a chapter in the author's doctoral dissertation, “Modalities of Freedom toward a Politic of Joy in Black Feminist Comedic Performance in 20th and 21st Century USA.” The author would like to thank the reviewers for their time and thoughtful notes. The author would also like to thank Nicole Gurgel and Nicole Martin for their support and insights during the development of this article. Correspondence to: Katelyn Hale Wood, Department of Drama, University of Virginia, PO Box 40128, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Katelyn Hale Wood; Cracking Up Time: Black Feminist Comedic Performance and Queer Temporalities in the Standup of Wanda Sykes. Departures in Critical Qualitative Research 1 September 2016; 5 (3): 10–32. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/dcqr.2016.5.3.10
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