Slipping on banana skins and falling through bars: 'True' comedy and the comic character

Galactica Media: Journal of Media Studies 3 (3):110-121 (2021)
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From Basil Fawlty, The Little Tramp and Frank Spencer; to Jim Carey, Andy Kaufman and Rowan Atkinson... comedy characters and comic actors have proved useful lenses for exploring—and exposing—humor’s cultural and political significance. Both performing as well as chastising cultural values, ideas and beliefs, the comic character gives a unique insight into latent forms of social exclusion that, in many instances, can only ever be approached through the comic form. It is in examining this comic form that this paper will consider how the ‘comedy character’ presents a unique, subversive significance. Drawing from Lacanian conceptions of the subject and television ‘sitcom’ examples, the emancipatory potential of the comedy character will be used to criticize the predominance of irony and satire in comic displays. Indeed, while funny, it will be argued that such comic examples underscore a deprivative cynicism within comedy and humor. Countering this, it will be argued that a Lacanian conception of the subject can profer a comic efficacy that not only reveals how our social orders are inherently inconsistent and open to subversive redefinition, but that these very inconsistencies are also echoed in the subject, and, in particular, the ‘true comedy character’.

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Jack Black
Sheffield Hallam University


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