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The Comedian as Confidence Man

Studies in Irony Fatigue

Will Kaufman

Humor

Humor in Life and Letters Series

Paperback
Available September 2019
ISBN: 9780814346792
Pages: 272
eBOOK
Available September 2019
ISBN: 9780814346808

In this lively and fascinating analysis of humorists and their work, Will Kaufman breaks new ground with his irony fatigue theory. The Comedian as Confidence Man examines the humorist's internal conflict between the social critic who demands to be taken seriously and the comedian who never can be: the irony fatigue condition. Concentrating on eight American literary and performing comedians from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, this study explores the irony fatigue affect that seems to pervade the work of comedians—those particular social observers who are obliged to promise, "Only kidding, folks," even when they may not be; in G. B. Shaw's words, they must "put things in such a way as to make people who would otherwise hang them believe they are joking."

If these social observers are obliged to become, in effect, confidence men, with irony as the satiric weapon that both attacks and diverts, then the implications are great for those social critics who above all wish to be heeded.

Will Kaufman is a folk musician and professor of American studies at the University of Central Lancashire. He is the author of Woody Guthrie’s Modern World Blues.