Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




In my thesis, I explore the artistry of stand-up comedy primarily by concentrating on five aspects of the genre that one generally uses to discuss literature: theme, persona, language, narrative structure, and audience. My purpose is to critically analyze a mode of artistic expression that is rarely given serious academic consideration

To accomplish this purpose I researched various theories of comedy and then proceeded to listen to and read about dozens of stand-up comedians. Using my own and other's knowledge of comedy and literature, I then closely analyze parts of routines from ten of the comedians I studied, including Lenny Bruce, Jerry Seinfeld, Woody Allen, Richard Pryor, Steven Wright, George Carlin, Mark Twain, Lily Tomlin, Paula Poundstone, and Chris Rock, focussing on certain aspects of their performances to create my discussion of theme, persona, language, narrative structure, and audience within stand-up comedy.

From these explorations, I am able to demonstrate how a stand-up comedian creates his art by offering himself as a guide to the hidden aspects of our lives. He presents alternative visions of reality, giving each member of the audience the chance to reexamine his or her perspective and relieve tension through laughter.

Included in

Psychology Commons