Impersonation, Expectation and Humorous Affiliation

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Copyright: Logi, Lorenzo
This thesis investigates how comedians employ impersonation and expectation to create humorous affiliation in stand-up comedy texts. Stand-up comedy is enjoying a surge in popularity and diversification as web-based content streaming services offer comedians opportunities to record live performances for global dissemination. As such, the genre constitutes a rich site for the study of how semiotic resources contribute to interactional humour. However, despite its increasing relevance, stand-up comedy remains relatively underexplored, especially from a linguistic perspective. Consequently, this thesis aims to advance the linguistic cartography of how meaning making resources contribute to humour in stand-up comedy. Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) is adopted as the theoretical foundation to undertake this investigation as it provides a unitary theoretical and analytical model for interpreting the relationship between instances of meaning in context and language as a system for enacting social relations. By drawing on emergent work on multimodality and paralanguage, the thesis extends and develops the SFL affiliation model to explore how language and laughter can be analysed as negotiations of social bonds. This allows the research to explore instances of humour that mark shared community affiliation. It also enables the thesis to develop a consolidated analytical framework for identifying and analysing the intermodal semiotic resources that contribute to impersonation and expectation in humorous affiliation. This framework incorporates analysis of gesture and voice quality – vital but underexplored paralinguistic resources in humour. The framework is then applied through close discourse analysis of three stand-up comedy texts by different comedians. The findings of the thesis outline typical and more complex realisations of intermodal impersonation, differentiate categories in how comedians employ impersonation to create humour, and describe how linguistic expectation can be established and subverted for humorous effect. Across these results, a common theme observed is that impersonation and expectation resources afford comedians the ability to specify the context within which particular social bonds are interpreted, which in turn grants them greater influence over how the audience will respond to their jokes.
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PhD Doctorate
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