By Andy Medhurst
Comedy is important to how the English see themselves. This publication considers that proposition via a sequence of case reports of renowned English comedies and comedians within the 20th century, starting from the keep it up movies to the paintings of Mike Leigh and modern sitcoms comparable to The Royle kinfolk, and from George Formby to Alan Bennett and Roy 'Chubby' Brown. bearing on comedian traditions to questions of sophistication, gender, sexuality and geography, a countrywide comic story appears at how comedy is a cultural thermometer, taking the temperature of its instances. It asks why vulgarity has consistently overjoyed English audiences, why camp is this kind of robust thread in English humour, why class influences what we snort at and why comedy has been so overlooked in so much theoretical writing approximately cultural identification. half heritage and half polemic, it argues that the English urgently have to examine who they're, who they've been and who they may turn into, and insists that comedy deals a very illuminating place for project these reflections.
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Additional resources for National Joke: Popular Comedy and English Cultural Identity (Sussex Studies in Culture & Communication)
Gilroy 1993: 72) The academic literature on theories of ‘the nation’ is so vast that all this chapter hopes to do is to commit a few strategic thefts from the shelves of that daunting library. Readers seeking useful introductions and contributions to the broader debates will ﬁnd much of interest in Balakrishnan (1996); Cubitt (1998); Easthope (1999); Gillis (1994); Ignatieff (1993); Manzo (1996); Nairn (1997); Smith (1991) and Stychin (1998). My aim here is to give brief consideration to some key questions in order to underpin what later chapters will have to say about comedies and Englishnesses.
It shows Hall at his eloquent best, magisterially condensing screeds of complex issues into a small handful of pages, yet the grasp and the brevity which are so impressive also leave the article languishing on the plane of abstraction. Its arguments need testing out on some concrete example (as I have often been told by students made grumpy by being obliged to read it), and comedy offers the ideal solution. What Hall does in the piece is to summarise and champion the view that social and cultural identities, in which people invest so deeply and heavily, are far from being ﬁxed and secure entities.
It is a fundamental part of how they comprehend their kinship – which may be an imaginary connection, though none the less powerful for that. (Gilroy 2000: 99) Yet the danger of identity, he says, is that if it is appropriated ‘in manipulative, deliberately oversimple ways’ it can ‘become a platform for the reverie of absolute and eternal division’ (101). In certain ethnic arenas, identity issues become saturated with notions of biological difference, becoming ‘something mysterious and genetic that sanctions especially harsh varieties of deterministic thinking’ (103).