My thesis addresses contemporary conversations about stand-up comedy and the art-form's capacity for facilitating complex rhetorical decision-making. I examine how stand-up comedians have positioned themselves on-stage through choices pertaining revealing personal behaviors, personas, and beliefs in public settings. Ultimately, I argue that the art of stand-up does not require truth-telling on-stage, and that there exists an implicit contract between performers and audiences which details comedians' license to share falsehoods, exaggerations, and embellishments on-stage without the repercussions that accompany these actions in other discourse settings. Finally, I evaluate how comics have handled this rhetorical "license," with some performers delivering easily identifiable falsehoods on stage through characters and caricatures, and others choosing to deliver autobiographical material in spite of the license. My research offers a framework through which audiences may digest the speech utterances in standup comedy performances as the product of purely rhetorical, calculated choices. I will propose that audiences treat each stand-up performance, no matter how seemingly intimate or personal, as artifice. I then offer case studies of three comedians who approach the notion of crafting an on-stage persona in different fashions and evaluate how each of these comedians utilize the implicit license of stand-up comedy. My research contributes to conversations in rhetoric and composition related to the performance of public and private "selves."
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Writing and Rhetoric
English; Rhetoric and Composition
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Grabert, Christopher, "Standing Up Comedy: Analyzing Rhetorical Approaches to Identity in Stand-up Comedy" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 6795.