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The Acquisition of Comedic Skills as a Component of Growth and Individuation: Post-Jungian and Psychoanalytic Perspectives.

Kempinska, M Z (2016) The Acquisition of Comedic Skills as a Component of Growth and Individuation: Post-Jungian and Psychoanalytic Perspectives. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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This dissertation proposes the argument that the comedic performance triggers and utilises Jung’s symbolic and archetypal processes. Stand-up comedy reflects social and psychological change in our society, towards class, gender equality and re-distribution of wealth and re-configuring social structures. Jungian theories are particularly pertinent to this study because they capture the psychological implications in both the inter and intra-psyche of the individual and social transformation. They examine the impact of the mythological and alchemical aspects of stand up comedy on the comedian whilst focussing on the archetype and the Amfortas Wound. While Freudian and post-Freudian theories prove to be more appropriate for examining the details of the agencies activated within inter and intra-psyche of the comedian during the performance. Jungian and post-Jungian theory examines the social and mythological aspect of stand-up comedy. Stand-up comedy and in particular women as stand-up comedians become a litmus test for society’s problems and issues and the rebalancing thereof social inequality. In the archetypal realm the comedy club becomes the ‘vas’, a symbolic sacred transformational space, in which stand-up comedy has the potential to become a transformative process for both the comedian and audience. Stand-up comedy is a transformative process for both the comedian and the spectator, while the comedy club becomes a vas, a symbolic sacred transformational space. The stand up comedian’s internal struggle is recreated into a personal comedic story, of individual versus the collective, Thanatos and Eros, personal versus social, responsibility versus irresponsibility, power, race, gender and hierarchy. The audience reflects upon these comedic stories and by doing so whether the comedian is successful or unsuccessful the comedian also reflects upon it hence transformation occurs. It is arguable that within this alchemical process the joke, on occasion, becomes the trickster. The trickster contains the ambivalent, contradictory, appropriately times message acting as a bullet for incisive revision or disruption of a commonly held social theme or belief. The trickster joke cuts through consciousness and is transformative and the most powerful becomes the Supra Joke. Plus the comedian is transmuted into a Supra Comedian who not only transforms himself but society also. The personal revelations of the comedian in the comedy club setting creates a self initiating, morphing and mutating imagery induced by the desire to create humour. Through this creative alchemical stand-up ritual individuation becomes viable. This process can be explained using a range of Jungian theories; namely Individuation, Enantiodromia, Alchemy, Temenos and the Self. The comedian’s issues are exposed to the audience, and the changes to his psyche are being encouraged by the verbal transaction of the comedic practise comparable to the therapist and his client. The comedians’ psychic development is being watched by a great number of people, and although the audience is not personally selected, they affect his development, and they monitor his or her progress by loving the comedian and thereby attaching themselves or, conversely, disowning and rejecting him. It is my contention that the audience is the symbolic mother and their response nurtures the attachment process and if successful encourages the comedian’s secure base as defined by Bowlby. The stand-up comedian’s art consists of joke creation. The joke then becomes the tool of personal and social radical transformation. In the arena of stand-up my proposal is that the trickster is not the comedian, as is a commonly held view, but one perfectly united moment between the stand up himself and the joke, which he has created whose delivery and impact is swift, but the supra-joke. The comedian is in constant search to create the perfect joke in order to capture the audience. The joke breaks into our psyche and announces a profoundly altering viewpoint. It is in that moment that opposing (or at least unexpected) views, ideas and opinions collide, and laughter occurs. The Supra Ccomedians’ personal issues are often bound within the problems of society; hence the audience is influenced, at times enraged and often enlightened by this comedic exchange. Chris Rock acknowledges this moment where he aims to ‘incorporate more quiet moments into the show. To me, that’s the best part of the show, to bring them down and then pow, hit them with an explosive line’ (Ajaye, 2002:183). The stand-up performance is an intense therapy like emotional and intellectual exchange in which neither the comedian nor the audience are omniscient or entirely in control of the situation. Humour can be regarded as a process of reparation, resolution and re-integration of personal and social conflicts. Whilst the stand–up comedians’ focus is to make the audience laugh their ability to reveal themselves and to reframe their inner turmoil affects the audience. Furthermore, the process resonates through society. However, the impact of their material due to modern technology is far reaching. However, not all comedians directly affect society, but those that do can make profound changes and on occasion can be prophetic; they can be termed Supra-comedian. Adapting Jung’s definition of the medicine man in primitive society I propose that the Supra Comedian is ‘an immortal daemon that pierces the chaotic darkness of brute light of meaning’ (1959: para 77). Their material can include changes that will occur in society or expose social and political activities or people, which at that time are dismissed by the media. They intuitively perceive the problems of society and mirror issues with humour and often they are successful comedians and may not be recognised in their lifetime as in the case of Bill Hicks. It is clear that stand-up comedy is a unique phenomenon of a time of global social transformation how it affects the individual is dependent upon the individual. It is a process without boundaries and can be the most powerful artist medium for change.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Maria Kempinska
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2017 15:45
Last Modified: 30 Oct 2018 16:39

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