This article draws on ethnographic interviews conducted between May 2016 and May 2017 with stand-up comics in Chicago and Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, all of whom described the experience of being marked as, or associated with, women within the historically masculine comedic space. Drawing on feminist comedy studies, production studies, and fan studies, the article explores the cultural logics of comedic authenticity and their material effects on embodied performances of marked comics in local live comedy. It argues that marked bodies are rarely able to achieve the ideal performance of “authenticity.” While stand-up comedy is often theorized optimistically as a fruitful site from which to subvert assumptions about identity, gendered or otherwise, comics paradoxically feel pressure to conform to appropriate gender expression on stage in order to be legible to audiences and other comics historically influenced by masculine comedic taste.
Open Mic?: The Gendered Gatekeeping of Authenticity in Spaces of Live Stand-Up Comedy
Stephanie Brown is currently serving as a visiting assistant professor of media and culture at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. She is working on a book exploring gender, power, and discourses of authenticity in stand-up comedy and collaborating on a new project analyzing digital pop astrology. Her work has been published in Transformative Works and Cultures, Studies in American Humor, FLOW, and In Media Res.
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Stephanie Brown; Open Mic?: The Gendered Gatekeeping of Authenticity in Spaces of Live Stand-Up Comedy. Feminist Media Histories 20 October 2020; 6 (4): 42–67. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2020.6.4.42
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