Can we talk? The reframing of social permissions in the comedy of Joan Rivers

Journal article

Matte, Gerard and McFadyen, Ian. (2011). Can we talk? The reframing of social permissions in the comedy of Joan Rivers. Comedy Studies. 2(2), pp. 161 - 171.
AuthorsMatte, Gerard and McFadyen, Ian

Theatrical performers enjoy a privileged position whereby they are permitted to perform actions and express utterances that would be generally unacceptable in everyday social communications. Stand-up comedy frames itself as a conversation between the comedian and the audience but explicitly breaches the normal rules of such interactions, notably the politeness maxims delineated by Leech, Grice, Levinson and others. In particular, Joan Rivers and other ‘insult’ comedians, such as Don Rickles, engage in what Brown and Levinson label ‘face-threatening actions’ that would normally elicit hostility but have the opposite effect in the context of the comedy performance. Comedians such as Rivers successfully reframe the rules of social interaction to grant themselves, and their audiences, permission to express, and enjoy expressing, feelings and attitudes normally branded as taboo.

Keywordscomedy; Joan Rivers; humour theory; politeness strategies; performance; audiences; taboos; language
JournalComedy Studies
Journal citation2 (2), pp. 161 - 171
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Page range161 - 171
Research GroupSchool of Arts
Publisher's version
File Access Level
Place of publicationUnited Kingdom
Permalink -

Restricted files

Publisher's version

  • 60
    total views
  • 0
    total downloads
  • 2
    views this month
  • 0
    downloads this month
These values are for the period from 19th October 2020, when this repository was created.

Export as

Related outputs

Comedy research and psychoanalysis
Matte, Gerard. (2002). Comedy research and psychoanalysis. Australian Journal of Comedy. 1(1), pp. 41 - 64.