Just Joking: Speech, Performance and Ethics
MetadataShow full item record
Why do people go into rooms to watch other people speak? What is it that is taking place when a performer walks onto a stage, or steps up to a microphone, and, in the silence that has fallen, begins to speak? This thesis considers both the pleasures and the anxieties that attend such public acts of speaking, and responds in particular to the kinds of utterances that announce themselves as in some way ‘non-serious’. It takes, as its founding example, comedian Stewart Lee saying, of Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond, ‘I wish he had died in that crash’, before adding, ‘it’s just a joke… like on Top Gear’. This, I suggest, is a complex moment that calls into play many of the key questions of performative theory, restaging them within the context of early twenty-first century Britain, where speech is mediatized and monetized as a form of entertainment. Against this backdrop, the thesis draws on key works by Shoshana Felman and Judith Butler, to argue that the ethics that emerges from such an enquiry would be one based on our mutual, shared unknowingness about what our bodies ‘say’ when we stand up to speak. Crucially, this might also be an ethics responsive to a certain kind of funniness. This thesis examines performances that are attuned to this kind of funniness: the stand-up comedy of Stewart Lee; the philosophical performance of J.L. Austin; the postmodern theatricality of Kinkaleri, and the stalled conversations via which the practice of performance studies itself takes place. Acknowledging the rhetoric by which its own 'voice' is figured, this thesis both narrates and stages moments of confusion between bodies and figures, examples and jokes, theory and performance. It aims to discover how such confusions, and the pleasure and anxiety they induce, might become politically useful.
- Theses