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From the Publisher
"Stand-Up Comedy in Theory, or, Abjection in America" is the first
study of stand-up comedy as a form of art. John Limon appreciates
and analyzes the specific practice of stand-up itself, moving
beyond theories of the joke, of the comic, and of comedy in general
to read stand-up through the lens of literary and cultural theory.
Limon argues that stand-up is an artform best defined by its
fascination with the abject, Julia Kristeva''s term for those
aspects of oneself that are obnoxious to one''s sense of identity
but that are nevertheless--like blood, feces, or urine--impossible
to jettison once and for all. All of a comedian''s life, Limon
asserts, is abject in this sense.
Limon begins with stand-up comics in the 1950s and 1960s--Lenny
Bruce, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Mike Nichols, Elaine May--when the
norm of the profession was the Jewish, male, heterosexual comedian.
He then moves toward the present with analyses of David Letterman,
Richard Pryor, Ellen DeGeneres, and Paula Poundstone. Limon
incorporates feminist, race, and queer theories to argue that the
"comedification" of America--stand-up comedy''s escape from its
narrow origins--involves the repossession by black, female, queer,
and Protestant comedians of what was black, female, queer, yet
suburbanizing in Jewish, male, heterosexual comedy. Limon''s formal
definition of stand-up as abject art thus hinges on his claim that
the great American comedians of the 1950s and 1960s located their
comedy at the place (which would have been conceived in 1960 as a
location between New York City or Chicago and their suburbs) where
body is thrown off for the mind and materiality is thrown off for
abstraction--at the place, that is, whereAmerican abjection has
always found its home.
As the first study of its kind, "Stand-Up Comedy in Theory, or,
Abjection in America" will appeal to a wide audience including
those interested in cultural studies, Jewish studies, gender and