Racism’s Back Door: A Mixed-Methods Content Analysis of Transformative Sketch Comedy in the US from 1960-2000

Jennifer Kim

Abstract


Comedy that challenges race ideology is transformative, widely available, and has the potential to affect processes of identity formation and weaken hegemonic continuity and dominance. Outside of the rules and constraints of serious discourse and cultural production, these comedic corrections thrive on discursive and semiotic ambiguity and temporality. Comedic corrections offer alternate interpretations overlooked or silenced by hegemonic structures and operating modes of cultural common sense. The view that their effects are ephemeral and insignificant is an incomplete and misguided evaluation. Since this paper adopts Hegel’s understanding of comedy as the spirit (Geist) made material, its very constitution, and thus its power, resides in exposing the internal thought processes often left unexamined, bringing them into the foreground, dissecting them, and exposing them for ridicule and transformation. In essence, the work of comedy is to consider all points of human processing and related structuration as fair game. The phenomenological nature of comedy calls for a micro-level examination. Select examples from The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1968), The Richard Pryor Show (1977), Saturday Night Live (1990), and Chappelle’s Show (2003) will demonstrate representative ways that comedy attacks and transforms racial hegemony. 


Keywords


comedy, cultural sociology, popular culture, race and racism, resistance.

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.29333/ejecs/392

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