Black Feminist Comedy

To celebrate Women's History Month, this week's review explores Black feminist comedy as an area of political thought, intersectionality, and protest

Cracking Up: Black Feminist Comedy in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Century United States

Wood, Katelyn Hale. Iowa, 2021
191p bibl index, 9781609387723 $35.00, 9781609387730 $35.00

Cracking Up: Black Feminist Comedy in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Century United States book cover

In studying the protest wit and humor of a neglected coterie of funny people, Wood (theater history) sets up her own scholarly routine with a quote from pioneer maverick Jackie “Moms” Mabley: “I just tell folks the truth. If they don’t want the truth, then don’t come to Moms.” Responding to “legacies of racialized grief,” Wood assembles a coalition of highly skilled, politically charged Black feminist comedians who have ruptured and subverted their lived experiences to perform what they see as truth, asking, as Horace once did, “What forbids me from telling the truth with a laugh?” She offers a political strategy of laughter to break down and open up other voices with unruly delight. Through her case studies, e.g., the hilarious Wanda Sykes and the strutting Mo’Nique, she conflates feminist, Black, and queer persona and enunciates a marginalized identity that aims to challenge, “critique, and dismantle white heteropatriarchy.” What brightens this ideologically charged work is the inclusion of performance routines from these grand comics that reveal the hearts, minds, pain, and hilarity of their subjects.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.
T. Lindvall, Virginia Wesleyan University
Interdisciplinary Subjects: African and African American Studies, Women’s & Gender Studies
Subject: Humanities – Performing Arts
Choice Issue: May 2022

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