Cracking Up: Black Feminist Comedy in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Century United States (Studies Theatre Hist & Culture)

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Katelyn Hale Wood’s treatise to the dissenting and deconstructive power of Black feminist comics and their craft is an important read, especially during a time of increased awareness of racial and gender justice issues. This book is designed for audiences in academia and those interested in the history of Black performing arts. Cracking Up analyzes and evaluates the legacy of pioneering comic Jackie “Moms” Mabley and anti-racist and queer feminist comedic styles of contemporary artists, namely Wanda Sykes, Mo’Nique, Amanda Seales, Sam Jay, among others.

As a queer white feminist, Wood was up-front in identifying the limitations of her own vantage point and social location in conducting a thorough analysis of the complexities of Black art. Their critique of gender and racial power dynamics with a keen understanding of the history of Black feminism and the utility of comedy to critique, i.e. speak truth to power against interlocking systems of oppression.

Black feminist comedy is the realness, and Wood makes the case for the genius of Black stand-up comedians in confronting anti-Black racism, misogyny, and heteronormativity. Even as the author quotes bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Michel Foucault and other intellectuals, their writing adequately captures important moments of truth-telling and audience engagement. As Wood described jokes that deal with threats of rape, the experiences of women in prison, and the trauma of coming out, I laughed out loud and cried at the same time.

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Star Count 4/5
Format Trade
Page Count 304 pages
Publisher University Of Iowa Press
Publish Date 30-Jun-2021
ISBN 9781609387723 Buy this Book
Issue July 2021
Category History