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’.
Alonso, P. (2016). Sacha Baron Cohen and Da Ali G Show: A Critique on Identity in Times of Satiric Infotainment. The Journal of Popular Culture, 49(3), 582–603. doi: 10.1111/jpcu.12418
Billig, M. (2001). Humour and Hatred: The Racist Jokes of the Ku Klux Klan. Discourse & Society, 12(3), 267–289. doi: 10.1177/0957926501012003001
Black, J. (2021). Race, Racism and Political Correctness in Comedy – A Psychoanalytic Exploration. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
Black, J. (n.d.). On Reflexive Racism: Disavowal, Deferment and the Lacanian Subject. Diacritics. (In Print).
Bonic, N. (2011). Psychoanalysis and comedy: The (im)possibility of changing the socio- symbolic order. S: Journal of the Jan Van Eyck Circle For Lacanian Ideology Critique, 4, 91–108.
Critchley, S. (2002). On Humour. London, UK: Routledge.
Donougho, M. (2016). Hegelian Comedy. Philosophy & Rhetoric, 49(2), 196–220. doi: 10.5325/philrhet.49.2.0196
Flisfeder, M. (2017). Postmodern Theory and Blade Runner. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.
Kottman, P. A. (2008). Slipping on banana peels, tumbling into wells: Philosophy and comedy. Diacritics, 38(4), 3–14.
Ladegaard, J. (2014). Laughing matters: Four Marxist takes on film comedy. In E. Mazierska & L. Kristensen (Eds.), Marx at the Movies: Revisiting History, Theory and Practice (pp. 102–122). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Ladegaard, J. (2017). The comedy of terrors: Ideology and comedy in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Textual Practice, 31(1), 179–195. doi: 10.1080/0950236X.2016.1188141
McGowan, T. (2014). The barriers to a critical comedy. Crisis and Critique, 1(3), 201–221.
McKenna, T. (2015). Art, Literature and Culture from a Marxist Perspective. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Peters, L., & Becker, S. (2010). Racism in comedy reappraised: Back to Little England? Comedy Studies, 1(2), 191–200. doi: 10.1386/cost.1.2.159_1
Roche, M. W. (2002). Hegel’s theory of comedy in the context of Hegelian and modern reflections on comedy. Revue Internationale de Philosophie, 221(3), 411–430.
Rothenberg, M. A. (2010). The Excessive Subject: A New Theory of Social Change. Cambridge, UK: Polity.
Ruda, F. (2016). Abolishing Freedom: A Plea for a Contemporary Use of Fatalism. Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press.
Sbriglia, R., & Zizek, S. (2020). Introduction: Subject Matters. In R. Sbriglia & S. Zizek (Eds.), Subject Lessons: Hegel, Lacan, and the Future of Materialism (pp. 3–30). Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press.
Weaver, S. (2011). Liquid racism and the ambiguity of Ali G. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 14(3), 249–264. doi: 10.1177/1367549410396004
Wood, K. (2012). Zizek: A Reader’s Guide. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
Žižek, S. (1991). Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan Through Popular Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Zizek, S. (1998). Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Žižek, S. (2004). The Structure of Domination Today: A Lacanian View. Studies in East European Thought, 56(4), 383–403. doi: 10.1023/B:SOVI.0000043002.02424.ca
Žižek, S. (2005). The Christian-Hegelian comedy. Retrieved 14 September 2021, from Cabinet website: https://cabinetmagazine.org/issues/17/zizek.php
Žižek, S. (2006). The Parallax View. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Zizek, Slavoj. (2000). The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology. London, UK: Verso.
Zupancic, A. (2003). The Shortest Shadow: Nietzsche’s Philosophy of the Two. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Zupančič, A. (2008). The Odd One in: On Comedy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.