Throughout its history, stand-up comedy has done much more than make people laugh. While many of these effects have been positive, some have argued that comedy can harm as well as help. Particularly in this day and age, there have been a number of controversies surrounding the kinds of jokes comedians have told and comments they have made on stage. Discussions that attempt to address these issues have arguably been of limited usefulness and, as usual, people tend to prefer answers that are simple and easy to swallow to difficult and complicated ones that reflect the complexity of humor itself. This project is an attempt to add something to the conversation that takes both theories of humor and common strategies of the stand-up comedians themselves into account. After conducting a significant amount of research, I conducted focus groups to see what theories and strategies stuck out most to people. While I did notice a few patters, opinions about comedy and stand-up seemed to be very diverse and subjective (much like humor itself). Because of these findings, I decided that reframing the issue might lead to a better use of our time. Thus, instead of using sociology to study stand-up comedy, I concluded that we might be able to discover a great deal about society by examining the kinds of jokes comedians tell and why we laugh at them.


Tierney, Thomas


Sociology and Anthropology


American Popular Culture | Other Sociology | Television


Comedy, Humor, Stand-up Comedy, Laughter, Ethnomethodology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2015 Peter S. Shirey