Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 04 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

As taught by Viola Spolin, Keith Johnstone, and others, improv is a mode of playing that depends on group consensus, through such concepts as “agreement” and “groupmind,” as a basis for the release of individual creativity and the freedom to bypass both internal and external censorship. Improv comedy on stage, however, most often reflects the white, male, heterosexual perspective of its dominant players. This article explores the “spontaneous” performances of gender and race in improv comedy in light of power dynamics that often silence difference and encourage shallow stereotypes. Using Judith Butler’s theories and other approaches, the chapter then discusses improv’s potential for deconstructing gender performance. Detailed analysis of the work of the all-female improv troupe, JANE, reveals the wealth and variety of characters that can be improvised when choices of gesture, voice, and body language are playfully recombined across conventions of gender and sexuality.

Keywords: improv comedy, gender stereotypes, gender performance, cross-gender performance, racial stereotypes, groupmind, groupthink, yes—and, agreement, body image

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.