This dissertation offers an application of field theory to humour studies and Canadian cultural industries studies. In applying field theory to Canadian stand-up comedy, I am able to map the structures, tensions, and trajectories found within the contemporary industry. This is achieved primarily through a discourse analysis of media and industry texts which frame the field and serve to reinforce dominant norms. Not surprisingly, the discourses perpetuated by the major gatekeepers in the industry tend to reinforce their own positions in the field. While stand-up is frequently framed as a potentially subversive force, especially by comedians themselves, I find that overall it is actually quite conservative in its content. As cultural entrepreneurs, comedians tend to be highly individualistic; while the content of their routines may speak critically of external political issues, internal discourses about their own work lives tend to be much more ambivalent. Understanding the humour that is popularly produced and consumed today, often in a global marketplace, entails not only a nuanced reading of the comic content, but also a consideration of the neoliberal/global conditions of its production, the cultural workers that write and perform the material, the gatekeepers that dictate how and when audiences will receive this material, and the social and cultural competencies and hierarchies that frame receptivity to the humorous discourse.
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Thesis advisor: Druick, Zoe
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