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A Vulgar Art


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Ian Brodie, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, is associate professor of folklore at Cape Breton University. He has served as president of the Folklore Studies Association of Canada and is currently the editor for Contemporary Legend: The Journal of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research.


A folklorist, Brodie presents a different approach to what George Carlin called the 'vulgar art' of stand-up comedy: he looks at the relationship of the performer and the audience through the lens of folklore. Though the extended net of the folklorist may have a looser mesh and miss relevant information that more focused approaches would reveal, the method does bring the audience to the fore. The environment of stand-up--a venue, a stage for focus, a microphone for amplification--is notable for its variety, a variety in which the professional must communicate and entertain up close and with material that is effective and, more important, funny. Folklorist Elliott Oring's description of humor as an 'appropriate incongruity' gives the framework to the comedian's problem. In describing a performer-audience interaction based on a need for love and power, Brodie makes a significant addition to understanding the nature of stand-up. The volume includes a videography as well as a bibliography and discography. Summing up: recommended.--P. L. Derks, emeritus, College of William and Mary "Choice"
A highly insightful, eloquently written study that explains, through application of folkloristic methodology, how stand-up comedians create an atmosphere of intimacy and evoke laughter from strangers. This will be a valuable addition to the libraries of scholars in a number of fields, as well as readers who enjoy stand-up comedy and want to learn how it works.--Elizabeth Tucker, author of Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses and coeditor (with Ellen McHale) of New York State Folklife Reader: Diverse Voices

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