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Alenka Zupančič: Evening Lecture - "Stand Up for Comedy" 2019-06-16

Living in strange times:

Curious turn in which the new populist right has taken up transgressions, including challenging dominant ideologies, saying the things that can’t be said, poking fun at the media and established hierarchies, even when in power this dissident continues against ‘deep state’ and European

A move away from simple conservatism to transgression > insults become ‘defending freedom of speech’

Zup. states that this kind of political dissent has also eroded simple courtesies such as greeting your neighbour because people think ‘who invented these stupid rules anyway’? Rule breaking for coolness.

Giving up on the more radical forms of social justice

‘The left has paradoxically ended up on the conservative side’ 3.31

by responding by creating ‘rules and sub rules’ complicating life for the everyday person and small corps, which are more easily overcome by the larger groups/businesses

Particularly US

Argues that if PC and IP - is where the social struggle is then it shows how ‘everything has gone very wrong - or should we say very ‘right’

‘Infantilization’ of society, to act on impulses and be protected from ‘the other. An ‘over valorisation of feeling’

‘Social valorisation means we pay the victim with her own money’

‘your feelings are so precious, you are so precious, the more you feel the more precious you are’ - a neo-liberalist manure which transforms even our most traumatic experiences into a possible social capital

if we can capitalise on our affects, we can limit our protest to the declaration of these affects - declarations of suffering and hurt and so on - not saying to not talk about these - but these should be the starting point, rather than the thing that allows the person to join the club.

This is an unfriendly time for comedy - a time of trigger warnings for Shakespeare

Anecdote about ‘bad food’ a a woman who’s body who would throw up at the slightest digestion of a small piece of chocolate

Nietzche - what is good health?

Comedy - Playing with what is on the other side, expressing impulses we cannot address other ways, not simply repressing them, but allowing them, and comedy is an area that these can be allowed

‘I secretly agree with the content of the joke, but resist it because it should not be said allowed because of cultural norms

Freudian - Jokes work because of our resistance, something we resist if not in joke form, but there is a release if said in a joke

Saying something very directly, but in an unexpected way i can enjoy it and laugh

Another form

Resistance - It is not only the content, and delivery of the joke I don’t like

Repression Freudian - i would not like to say it or hear it

I am profoundly repulsed -

Genuinely hating an impulse within themselves, so they violently attack someone who holds that impulse freely (eg: homophobia)

Impulses we all find disturbing eg: cannibalism/torture

Non moral source of morality

Freud that the source is not moral - helps the explanation of it

Morality and censorship not only performed upon the ID but in complicity with it

Hence affect of genuine attraction or repulsion

There are many ‘good repressions’ that deal with socially destructive impulses

Morality based on repression comes at a price

‘discontent in civilisation’

The more culturally sophisticated we become the more discontent there is

That we should return to a more simple and intuitive way of interacting

Lacan - is there an ethics of being not based on this repression?

Is there another way we deal with these impulses, contradictory with themselves

Its not just ‘abandoning’ if this is even possible

Culture for Freud is a solution for the conflicts and contradictions, but it also throws up new conflicts and contradictions

> The current social and political landscape

> The current Left, are coming up with ‘rules’

> Transgressions, a boundary crossing,

The Right > ‘Eternal, Natural, Divine rules - natural sexuality, nationalism etc… there is a cut that is being created (Racist Divide). Respects some rules  -

> Political correctness - the cultural left is bust attending to the symptoms

The right expects a reaction against the actions, and protects repression

> Chanelling the outlet of repressions, it expects it

Deeply connected

A political importance of comedy comes in, even if the content doesn’t have anything to do with comedy -

Cultural forms that can work on repression

A collective or collective forming process

Comedy can lure us out of our well considered moral chair, exposes us to ideas we would usually resist

This transgression is enjoyable

‘Gay Science’ - book

Guy Saber -

Sublimation - Satisfaction of the drives without repression

Comedy - reactionary and emancipatory efforts

Empower the people or just entertain and divert them

Good and Bad comedy

Stand up and sit back comedy

What they do in terms of repression - do they change them, shift them, dismantle them, or just use them and perpetrate them?

Our moral and intellectual superiority

Ourselves who get it, and the others who don’t get it

A narrow definition of irony

James Harvey on HollyWood Comedy where a successful joke connects you to an audience, an irony may do the opposite, an irony may confirm itself and the joke feel richer if half the audience misses it

The place of the stupider other

Comic movement is different to irony

God is Dead


Niechize is dead


God is dead, but i’m not feeling to well either

A particular side to irony, if you side with irony you can’t be wrong

Trump - sit back comedy (no risk)

Fill the audience with Democratic audience and fill each week with trump jokes, there is no risk here, while progressive on the surface, really quite conservative

The mainstream left is all about being ‘right/correct’


So what not be wrong for a change?

What makes Trump possible?

To use his own slogan - With out Trump, America would be great again’

Stand up comedy (risk)

You don’t perform in a controlled environment

you prepare well for your act, but you don’t play out your script

You respond to the audience but you don’t play into its hands

If you are making a point that doesn’t go down too well with the public, you can abandon the point, or find a funnier way of saying it, and push the public to take the point in and consider it.

Involves taking in risk,

Makes the audience stand up in its head and take a walk around

Example 1:

Video> Starts out as a usual trump bashing 37:00

The Laugh Factory

“When he first started running….


>He says what’s on his mind, so i don’t have to say what’s on my mind


Explaining his popularity, boosts his standing while continuing the repression, inadmissible thoughts

Dismantling nominalism

Example 2:

Using ‘sit back’ comedy to lure us into ‘stand up’ comedy

Sacha Baron Cohen

Building a Mosque in Kingman Arizona

An investment of 3.5 million dollars,

They all say Yes, then he tells them it will be for building a mosque - they start to protest

Why on earth would we need a mosque and also islamic phobic responses

the atmosphere becomes explosive

Cohen’s successful attempt and showing and proving this racism, a formula he is comfortable using -

We feel comfortable laughing at the bigots, but is also used as a means of liberal blackmail -

The project is also presented as a liberal tactic - Do you want a Green A, a Blue A, a Red A…. instead Do you want A or not?

Cohen says - you can have design A or B

A baroque or not…

Who likes design 1? no one, so it’s 2?

Corporate strategy

If you don’t like these constructions, tell me about your dream Mosque

A local finally cries ‘There is no dream mosque!’

But what should our response to any of these ‘free choice black mail situations’ The prejudiced man is not saying this because he is islamaphobic, but because there is no other choice for idiots

Complicate the causality -

Subjected to this kind of systemic blackmail and its consequences for decades

Accumulated impotence

This kind of seemingly neutral liberal frameworks is being canalised in contemporary populist politics and which fully supports the economical side of this blackmail, outcomes used against its enemies, migrants, workers etc.. rather than against the systemic problem.

Cohens comedy exposes the two side of this problem, the liberal system and the prejudice that is the outcome.