By Andy Medhurst
Comedy is important to how the English see themselves. This publication considers that proposition via a chain of case reviews of well known English comedies and comedians within the 20th century, starting from the keep it up movies to the paintings of Mike Leigh and modern sitcoms equivalent to The Royle family members, and from George Formby to Alan Bennett and Roy 'Chubby' Brown. pertaining to comedian traditions to questions of sophistication, gender, sexuality and geography, a countrywide funny story seems to be at how comedy is a cultural thermometer, taking the temperature of its instances. It asks why vulgarity has regularly extremely joyful English audiences, why camp is the sort of robust thread in English humour, why class influences what we chuckle at and why comedy has been so ignored in such a lot theoretical writing approximately cultural identification. half heritage and half polemic, it argues that the English urgently have to consider who they're, who they've been and who they could develop into, and insists that comedy deals a very illuminating situation for venture these reflections.
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Additional info for National Joke: Popular Comedy and English Cultural Identity (Sussex Studies in Culture & Communication)
In Hall’s words, ‘identiﬁcation is … a construction, a process never completed – always “in process” … conditional, lodged in contingency … it requires discursive work, the binding and marking of symbolic boundaries, the production of “frontier-effects”. It requires what is left outside, its constitutive outside, to consolidate the process’ (2–3). Identities, Hall states, are ‘produced in speciﬁc historical and institutional sites, within speciﬁc discursive formations and practices, by speciﬁc enunciative strategies.
The ﬁrst hurdle this joke places in front of any listener is the name Dawn French. If that has no connotations, and it suggests no kind of pun or other purely verbal play, then the joke dies then and there. You need to know who she is to book your space in this joke’s sinister playground. The joke thus only works for British listeners, or non-British listeners aware that Dawn French is an acclaimed and successful comedian, writer and actress. This is still not enough to make the joke work, since that description would also ﬁt Jennifer Saunders, French’s partner in many projects, but ‘What do you call a dog with a spade up its arse?
Most of the time, needless to say, it oscillates between those poles, and its exact position in that spectrum shifts constantly, depending on content, context and the standpoint from which it is viewed. Above all else, comedy is an invitation to belong. In Hall’s framework, the security, reassurance and stability promised by belonging are deceptive: you may place yourself (or be placed) in a group or body or culture or subculture or class or gender or ethnicity or nation or minority or fellowship or identity through a declaration or an assignation of belonging, but that placing will always remain temporary, contingent, ﬂuid and contested.