Voicing Opposition: Challenging Outlooks in the Stand-Up Comedy of Bill Hicks

University essay from Lunds universitet/Sociologi

Abstract: In this study I examine the way stand-up comedian Bill Hicks challenges authority and conventional ideas by re-interpreting signs and offering other ways of explaining social phenomena. The use of comedy for purposes of education and protest is central in the analysis of how the meaning of signs is challenged. Theoretically based in a post-structuralist tradition, and drawing on Discourse Theory, I also try to address the issue of agency and the problems associated with the effacing of subjective action, which is prominent in this tradition. Important theoretical and methodological questions posed include whether or not deconstruction can serve as a useful tool in research, since it implies the deconstruction of the field of research itself, and how to account for change and agency in a tradition that has a problematic relationship to subjective action. The main results center on the way Bill Hicks rearticulates the meaning of signs, often by widening or limiting the concepts. Drugs, sex and war are among the topics addressed, and the meanings of the signs are challenged, and new interpretations are offered.

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