Never did I expect the journey I am on during PhD study in Political Science – focused on the politics of laughter. Never did I expect this experience, 16 months in.
Honestly, I’ve had some of the most amazing “aha” moments of my life this past eight weeks of data collection.
But today was something else.
There are lots of moments in my life that I can attribute massive shifts in my thinking to. Today is another major one.
Some of the past life epiphanies are also related to study and fieldwork, more than any personal experiences. The moment I first understood how power and control are interrelated and reproduced – came through intellectual work I did in my first degree in 1999. That prompted me to leave an abusive marriage and change my life fundamentally for myself and my then 7 year old.
The experience of performing comedy after working as a consultant anthropologist in community arts prompted me to understand my own history. It allowed me to understand how that history related to my mental health in ways I could never have without performing it, and along with therapy, took me to a place of huge acceptance.
Many may think that comedy is, just for laughs. But laughter is such a complex physical, social and cultural phenomenon.
I practice a ‘field of dreams…build and they will come approach’ to this research. There’s a process of letting as many know as I can so they can step forward and offer to be interviewed or be part of a satire experiment or both. But there is also those that approach me, after learning about the research.
The response to my research has doubled what my initial yearly sample was hoped to be.
But so far, those who think it important to be a part of this study -all have one thing in common – they really care about comedy that gives back to the world and the sharing of truths.
“What truth? Whose truth?” I hear the cynics mutter. If comedy is seen as reductive, it needs to be compared to the ever increasing slogans and lack of meaningful policy of Australian politics. In just 16 months I’ve found more political meaning in a deep dive into Australian comedy than I have in 15 years doing community development in non for profits and writing senate enquiry submissions.
A common denominator in what I’m finding in the words of these political comedians (including those who do topics political in nature, not only direct political satire) aim to unearth – is the many truths of political and social significance for democracy and community representation. It sits in stark opposition to the ever increasing self-interest of actual politicians.
While not at all surprised by this, it is the depth of the passion and the collective commitment in what is being shared with me – that is humbling and inspiring and I am very grateful.