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Take my mother-in-law: old bags, comedy and the sociocultural construction of the older woman

Author: Shade, Ruth

Source: Comedy Studies, Volume 1, Number 1, 1 January 2010 , pp. 71-83(13)

Publisher: Intellect

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This article investigates how older women are depicted in jokes, how jokes about mature women conform to or challenge stereotypical notions of the older woman, and explores the sociocultural function of laughing at and with old bags. The article asks questions about the role and functions of jokes about older women and argues that jokes are lies in search of the truth. Jokes can neutralize fears and defuse tensions; but they also reveal what disturbs us. The thinking underpinning the article is informed primarily by Mikhail Bakhtin's ideas about carnival and the carnivalesque, though Michel Foucault's notion of disciplinary power and Edward Said's concept of orientalism are briefly referenced. An earlier version of this article was presented as a paper at the Playing for Laughs conference at Leicester De Montfort University in February 2009.

Keywords: Mikhail Bakhtin; comedy and ethics; female comedians; gender; joke-telling; popular performance; the carnivalesque

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Wolverhampton.

Publication date: January 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • Comedy Studies covers multiple aspects of comedy, with articles about both contemporary and historical comedy, interviews with practicing comedians and writers, reviews, letters and editorials. The journal seeks to be instrumental in creating interdisciplinary discourse about the nature and practice of comedy, providing a forum for the disparate voices of comedians, academics and writers.
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