ABSTRACT

Satire and stand-up comedy are forms of cultural examination generally perceived as tools used by everyday citizens against the powerful and not by the powerful themselves. This article examines the less-analyzed side of stand-up comedy and satire as malleable instruments of cultural interrogation when employed by powerful agents such as President Obama. Drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin's concept of carnival and Henri Bergson's concept of humor as a form of social corrective in my textual analysis of his stand-up addresses, this article interprets how Obama's on-the-offensive, comically insulting addresses provided a unique way for him to attempt to normalize political criticisms and controversies, such as the “birther theory” and his administration's drone program. In its interpretation of a substantial satirical and comic strategy within Obama's stand-up addresses, this article reflects on the nature of modern satire and stand-up comedy and their complex relationship with forms of American power.

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