Lanita Jacobs’s To Be Real: Truth and Racial Authenticity in African American Standup Comedy investigates how the comedy club provides a space for performers and audiences to explore what “real” Blackness means in the early twenty-first century. Jacobs ponders this question of racial authenticity from the seat of the stand-up comedy fan and from the perspective of the curious and detailed ethnographer. The subjects of the book are Black comics (both mainstream and not) who frequent Los Angeles comedy clubs and who use the stage to untangle the complexities of Black citizenship in the United States. The chapters of To Be Real are, for the most part, divided by catastrophe—in either the United States or, on a smaller scale, the comedy scene itself. Jacobs investigates how Black comics in Los Angeles responded to 9/11, the Iraq war, and Hurricane Katrina, as well as how white comedian Michael Richards’s deeply racist...

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