Jesse Rappaport
City University of New York
Jake Quilty-Dunn
Washington University in St. Louis
Stand‐up comedy is often viewed in two contrary ways. In one view, comedians are hailed as providing genuine social insight and telling truths. In the other, comedians are seen as merely trying to entertain and not to be taken seriously. This tension raises a foundational question for the aesthetics of stand‐up: Do stand‐up comedians perform genuine assertions in their performances? This article considers this question in the light of several theories of assertion. We conclude that comedians on stage do not count as making genuine assertions—rather, much like actors on a stage, they merely pretend to perform speech acts. However, due to norms of authenticity that govern stand‐up comedy, performers can nonetheless succeed in conveying genuine insights. Thus, our account accommodates both the seemingly incompatible aspects of our ordinary appreciation of stand‐up comedy and points toward deeper philosophical understanding of stand‐up comedy as a unique art form.
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DOI 10.1111/jaac.12766
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