ABSTRACT

A live audience is typically considered an essential component for a stand-up comedy performance. For this reason, most recorded stand-up specials use various formal devices in order to try to make the special feel as “live” as possible. This article considers a number of comedians who challenge and complicate these conventions. Comedians such as Chelsea Peretti, Fred Armisen, and Maria Bamford utilize different forms of editing and filming or record their “live” acts in nontraditional venues. This results in stand-up specials that parody or subvert traditional recorded stand-up. This element of parody or subversion challenges basic assumptions about televisual stand-up even as it serves to complement and reinforce the content of a comedian's stage performance. It also establishes the stand-up special as a distinct text in its own right, as opposed a “next-best-thing” approximation of the live performance. Finally, experimental stand-up specials complicate the ways in which we understand the relationship between a comedian and his or her audience.

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