The Evolution of Mediatized Stand-Up Comedy: Investigating Para-Performances on Television, Film, and YouTube

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Almaula, Mirali

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University of Guelph


Although the majority of today’s performances are accessible on multiple platforms, performance analysis often continues to focus on the live event or to discuss the recorded event as if it were live. This thesis explores the influence of various mediatizations on a performance form. In order to better understand changes in power, control, and authority that are produced on differing mediums, it develops a form of analysis that views the performance event as comprised of two aspects. It argues that a performance event is comprised of the performance proper, which is a performance that is identifiable as being for entertainment purposes, and the para-performance, which arises due to the intention and/or execution of the performance proper. For example, the performance text of a theatrical work is the performance proper whereas the audience’s reactions, the architecture of the performance space, and the promotional materials and reviews are part of the para-performance. A para-performance analysis thus reads both the performance proper and the paraperformance “as” performance. This thesis is an investigation of the process of adapting live performance to media platforms. That process, referred to as mediatization, is explored through the evolution of contemporary stand-up comedy in Anglophone North America. Specifically, the dissertation focuses on the development of the content, form, and audiences of contemporary stand-up comedy across live, televised, filmic (i.e. VHS, DVD, and Netflix), and YouTube mediatizations of the performance form. Moreover, a performance analysis approach to the objects of study is used to understand the relationship between power and platform. The dissertation examines how marginalized performers negotiate power through their para-performances and performances. Analysis of the objects of study reveals that manipulating elements of the para-performance can align performers with power and invest their voices with authority. The dissertation demonstrates that media platforms that offer performers control over various para-performance elements, access to accidental audiences, and positions alongside those in power provide the performer with the greatest opportunity to challenge dominant ideologies and positively reconfigure existing hegemonic structures.



stand-up comedy, race, gender, censorship, forms of capital, commodification, theatre studies, performance studies, cultural studies, media studies, para-text, para-performance, male gaze, dominant gaze, liveness, the unlive, audiences, cyberspace, performance space, Netflix, YouTube, DVD, television, TV, Russell Peters, Margaret Cho, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Michael Richards, Jenna Marbles, stereotypes, representation, Comedy Now!, The Making-Box, dissidence, Lenny Bruce, mediatization, multicultural, power