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Costume and Cross-Dressing in Stand-up Comedy.

Bolsover, Nicola (2015) Costume and Cross-Dressing in Stand-up Comedy. Master of Arts by Research (MARes) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:52927)

Language: English
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Name a funny and successful man who has dressed up as a woman. Danny LaRue, Robin Williams, Les Dawson; the list roles off the tongue. But it is a little tougher to name the women who get laughs while dressing as men. Kathy Burke parodied teenager Perry in Harry Enfield and Chums in the 1990s, then around ten years later Catherine Tate took on the role of an effeminate middle-aged man. Why is there not an abundance of female comedians dressing up as men to get laughs? What are the taboos surrounding this medium and are they too significant to find a mainstream audience?

In this project I discover what the performance benefits and pitfalls are of experimenting with cross-dressing and through that, notions of femininity. Can dressing up as a man give female comics – like me - freedom to be funnier? Or does the process result in a loss of self-identity and truth which makes it more difficult to step out on stage, under the spotlight with a microphone in hand.

Drawing on previous research literature on notions of ‘self’ in comedic performance and the use of costume to make an impact, I use these theories as a base to conduct original research through my own performance. I explore the perceived wisdom that women parodying men is less successful due to their respective gender roles in society and the ideas of introversion/extroversion attached to each gender. By experimenting with different forms of gendered costuming, I discover the effects it has on the performer and how s/he can use these effects to their advantage. My focus is on the experience of the performer, not on the experience of the audience. Practical experimentation and existing academic theory is combined with first-hand interviews with drag performers. The result is a break away from preconceptions, both the audience's and my own.

Item Type: Thesis (Master of Arts by Research (MARes))
Thesis advisor: Double, Oliver
Uncontrolled keywords: Stand-up Comedy Costume Cross-dressing Transvestite Gender Androgynous Comedians Comediennes Drag Male-impersonation Female-impersonation
Subjects: N Visual Arts
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2015 16:00 UTC
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2022 14:47 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Bolsover, Nicola.

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