Populism, comedy and popular culture Populism, comedy and popular culture

Stand-Up Politics? Populism, comedy and popular culture.

19th May 2017: 1-6pm LSB 01.21, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ

Organisers: Ben Little (b.little@uea.ac.uk) and Brett Mills (brett.mills@uea.ac.uk)
To mark the publication of Russell Brand: Celebrity, Comedy, Politics (Arthurs and Little, 2016), this half-day symposium will bring together a wide range of thinkers for an interdisciplinary exploration of the contemporary relationship between stand-up comedy, politics and protest movements. While there has always been a connection between humour and politics, stand-up comedy as a cultural form has become increasingly central to political expression and protest. Stand-up has produced some high profile political activists such as Russell Brand and Beppe Grillo, but it has also shaped the logic of formal politics, with the increasing importance of the joke in contemporary political discourse being seen in everything from PMQs to Donald Trump’s twitter feed. In the wider context of rising populisms of left and right, this half-day event will assess how productive relationships between comedians and activism can be forged to create new political possibilities in the face of accusations of cynicism, trivialisation and simplification in the interaction between stand-up and the political.
This event is free. To register please reserve a place on this link.


12:30 pm Arrive and register

01:00 pm Introduction

01:15 pm - 02:45 pm Panel 1 – Russell Brand

•    Keir Milburn: ‘What does it mean when comedians become political leaders?’ 
•    Jane Arthurs: ‘Russell Brand's Stand-up and the Politics of Emotion’
•    Ben Little: ‘Activist Assemblages: Comparing Russell Brand and UK Uncut’
•    Ellen Watts: ‘ ”If he cares so much, why doesn’t he buy the estate?” What role can comedians play in       contesting the housing crisis in the UK?’

3:00 pm – 04:15 pm Panel 2 – Politics, Comedy and Citizenship

•    Sanna Inthorn: ‘Popular culture and political engagement’
•    Paolo Gerbaudo: ‘Comic populism: the case of the 5 Star Movement’
•    Sylvia Shaw: ‘PMQs as Stand-Up: Linguistic style and humour in Corbyn-May parliamentary exchanges’ 

04:30 pm - 06:00 pm Panel 3 – Comedy Politics

•    Sharon Lockyer: ‘Stand-up Comedy as Disability Activism? Exploring the Creative Political Possibilities’
•    Beccy Collings: ‘Newspaper column or political stand-up routine? Frankie Boyle in the Guardian’
•    Jenny Young: ‘From stage to small screen: How regulation and policy shape television comedy’

Jane Arthurs and Ben Little's Russell Brand: Comedy, Celebrity, Politics is available 
here in ebook and hardcover. 

Russell Brand is one of the most high profile and controversial celebrities of our time. A divisive figure, his ability to bounce back from adversity is remarkable. This book traces his various career stages through which he has done this, moving from comedy, to TV presenting; from radio to Hollywood films. It identifies how this eclectic career in entertainment both helped and hindered his high-profile move into political activism. Underpinning the book are interviews with leading activists and politicians, and sophisticated readings of Brand's performances, writing and on-screen work. There are sections on the Sachsgate scandal, his Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman, and his 2015 election intervention for aspiring Prime Minister Ed Miliband. It builds on scholarly work in the area of celebrity politics to develop an original analytic approach that blends the field theory of Pierre Bourdieu with the assemblage theory of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.

‘This is a fantastically exciting book, one which both forensically interrogates the cultural significance of Brand as a comedian but which also places him at the heart of a much bigger intellectual narrative about comic celebrity and its increasing impact on contemporary British politics.’ Sam Friedman, London School of Economics and author of Comedy and Distinction: The cultural currency of a "good" sense of humour

'How can a celebrity of global stature "transform public debate, become an established symbol of activist politics, and then seem to vanish almost without trace"? Arthurs and Little’s remarkable new book tackles this question with transdisciplinary lucidity, unpacking the many meanings of Russell Brand, situating the maverick trickster in broader context, and in the process offering a vibrant and vital resource for all those who want to understand celebrity, contemporary politics and the connections between them.'
Jo Littler, City University, London and author of Against Meritocracy: Culture, Power and Myths of Mobility.

'This captivating and enlightening book charts Russell Brand’s rise from comedian to radio host to author, activist and movement leader. It explains why he is a key figure to understand the political and cultural horizon that is unfolding in the wake of the Great Recession and the crossover between celebrity culture, populism and emerging forms of political leadership in an era marked by popular discontent and a crisis of political elites. '
Paolo Gerbaudo, Kings College, London and author of The Mask and the Flag: Populism, Citizenism and Global Protest.