Session VIII – Panel A

SESSION VIII, March 3, 11:15-12:30PM

Panel A: Laughing in Multimedia
Moderator: Driton Nushaj
Room: University College 224A

Mehraneh Ebrahimi (Western) – Humour in Traumatic Testimony: A Graphic Memoir

Majane Satrapi’s auto (bio) graphical novels: Persepolis 1; The Story of a Childhood and Persepolis 2; The Story of a Return utilizes the juvenile medium of Comic Strips to tell of her coming of age story in pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary Iran of 1979. The stark contrast between the black and white ink of the panels, tinged with their own taste of chiaroscuro humour are offset by what is commonly known as gutters: the uncharted in between spaces  of each frame in which, as Homi Bhabha suggests, new identities can be forged. Marjane herself is in that liminal stage of adolescent: almost an adult but not quite; so is revolutionary Iran and the theme of exile, diaspora and reunion that prevails the hybrid book. This paper will focus on the efficacy of the Genre of Comic Strip in bearing witness to personal and collective traumas. Also in question, is the anticlimactic humorous undertone of the serious narrative.

Mehraneh Ebrahimi is a second year PhD student in Comparative Literature. Her research interests include the figure of the terrorist as the society’s Other in the cultural imagination of North America.

Christelle Paré (Université INRS) – The Quebec Francophone Comedy Industry: Puppet or Puppeteer of the Media?

The Province of Quebec is an interesting ground for research in humour and comedy. It hosts not only the biggest comedy festival on the planet (Juste pour rire – Just for Laugh), but also four others on its territory. It harbours the only francophone comedy school (École nationale de l’humour), recognizes the players of this field annually with an awards gala, and is more lucrative than any other performing arts in the province. Its talents are now known internationally, and some comedians are even tackling the European and English-language markets.

Media are playing a major role in the comedy industry. They circulate the numerous comedy “products”, promote and sometimes evaluate them. However, according to a few players in this industry, the real “critics” are rare these days. To them, the critique papers and reviews sound more like summaries of the shows or advertorials. On the opposite, for some comedians, the art critics are too hard on them and do not understand their reality compared to other art forms.

Our communication will explore the actors discourse (comedians and journalists) about this cultural field, based on several interviews conducted during our thesis research, and using a press corpus of articles identified by the media as “critiques” or “reviews” of stand-up comedy shows, published between 2008 and 2012. We will try to take the pulse of a long-lasting battle between the artists and the critics, and we will observe if the comedy industry has any real power that could influence the way some papers may treat the stand-up comedy artistic field.

Christelle Paré’s research focus is the cultural industries, comedy and humour. She has interests in the contemporary changes in popular culture. She is one of the founding members of the Observatoire de l’humour, a group whose purpose is to promote scientific research of humour and its link in society.

Jennifer Field (University of Guelph) – ‘Intouchable’ Boundaries: Comedy as a Tool of Social Critique

The cinema has a long-standing tradition of using comedy as a means to confront power structures and established social roles. The 2012 French film, The Intouchables is just one such example of this. It is based on the real life friendship of Philippe, a wealthy quadriplegic and Driss, the welfare recipient he hires as a caretaker with no formal credentials. Comedy inevitably ensues, bringing to life this seemingly unlikely friendship. The real power of this film comes from its use of comedy. After all, laughter has the rather incredible ability to question, critique and transcend power structures, prompting audiences to come into contact with controversial topics such as ‘race,’ class, and (dis)ability and challenging them to touch the untouchable. Moreover, laughter has the distinct ability to ease the tensions of such conversations, critical examinations and critiques. This is not, however to say that the use of humour to discuss social issues removes the seriousness out of such topics, but comedy has the unique ability to expose just how wildly illogical such social institutions are- allowing for a less charged space to rethink them and hopefully work towards dismantling them. Ultimately, The Intouchables prompts the audience to ask what is untouchable? What are the boundaries between what is ‘touchable’ and what is not in the physical sense, conversational sense, and even the comedic sense. Furthermore, who has the authority to make such distinctions? Laughter, I believe, can act as a social glue of sorts. What Philippe and Driss show us is that laughter can ease our troubles, if only momentarily, even in our most vulnerable, frustrating and embarrassing moments. The connection laughter establishes bridges the taboo and ultimately reveals our similarities in shared humanity greatly transcends our differing social circumstances and essentially confirm our universal desires for dignity and respect.

I have a keen interest in studying the intersections of social identity such as ‘race’, class, gender, sexuality and ability and their representation within popular culture, specifically television and film. I am currently working on a project examining Malcolm X’s ideas within the context of the era of ‘Reaganomics.’

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