Consuming the Comedy Experience: An Ethnographic Enquiry into Live Grassroots Stand-Up

Mills, Scott
(2019) Consuming the Comedy Experience: An Ethnographic Enquiry into Live Grassroots Stand-Up. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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This thesis explores the experience of consuming live grassroots stand-up comedy. It is aligned with the experiential turn in consumer research which often draws the researcher’s gaze away from retail environments and toward cultural industries. Despite its centuries old popularity, the dynamics of comedy surprisingly remain quite ineffable. Many scholars have tried to understand comedy structurally via cognitive humour theories, taste, or class, so instead this project turns to the more ethereal in the form of experience. In an act of sheer comic coincidence, a review of the experiential consumption literature finds it too is similarly beguiled by structurally-based approaches which serve to constrain how experience is treated in consumer research. Thus, in response to these critiques, this thesis adopts Deleuze and Guattari’s non-structural and fluid rhizome concept in order to better account for the comedy experience. Underpinned by an interpretive methodology, the empirical element of this study comprises of an ethnographic investigation into live grassroots stand-up comedy using the methods of participant observation, depth interviews and informal interviews. Participant observation was conducted at a number of different grassroots comedy nights in Liverpool over a 14-month period. Using a combination of judgement and snowball sampling, informants were selected for depth interviewing during the course of the observations. Informal interviewing occurred ad hoc throughout the fieldwork. The corpus of data collected throughout this process was interpreted hermeneutically in order to elucidate the emerging themes. This study finds three experiential elements to be dominant in the comedy experience: escape and play, spontaneity and improvisation, and alignment and atmosphere. The study demonstrates that these three themes are woven throughout the live grassroots comedy stand-up experience, and are thus constitutive elements of it. Then, this study proffers the rhizomatic Jester’s Hat as a novel explanatory tool to understand these themes in relation to each other. In doing so, it depicts how three of Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts, connectivity, deterritorialisation, and multiplicity, work as commonalities across each of the identified experiential elements. By eschewing the conventional structural traits of many frameworks in consumer research, which often rely on dichotomy and matrices, the Jester’s Hat provides a contribution to theory by highlighting the holistic and uncertain nature of the consumption experience.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Management
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 13 Aug 2020 10:40
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2022 07:43
DOI: 10.17638/03063887