Mental Health and Stand-up Comedy: ‘Unhappy’ Stand-up Comedy as a Reflection of Liquid Modernity

Ann Christina Pereira, Sarika Tyagi


Stand-up comedy reflects the dominant mood of a period with its philosophies, fears and prejudices. Today, an increasing number of stand-up comedians have started discussing their personal experiences regarding mental health issues, most commonly depression and anxiety. The aim of this type of comedy is seldom to elicit laughter. This paper aims to understand the climate that has led to the popularity of this type of comedy. The paper argues that ‘unhappy’ stand-up is a reflection of liquid modernity by studying the stand-up comedy of Daniel Fernandes, Neville Shah and Taylor Tomlinson. Zygmunt Bauman refers to liquid modernity as a society where nothing is permanent and boundaries are not fixed. The paper traces three main features of liquid modernity: anxiety due to “reflexivity of the self”; the evaluation of the exchange value of people, relationships and things, thus reducing human beings as commodities; and the disappearance of the boundaries between the private sphere and the public sphere. This study finds that ‘unhappy’ stand-up is a way for individuals disillusioned with their predicament in liquid modernity to channel their inner struggles and in the process cope with the process.

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Studies in Media and Communication      ISSN 2325-8071 (Print)   ISSN 2325-808X (Online)

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