In Health and Inequality in Standup Comedy: Stories That Challenge Stigma, Sean M. Viña explores the power of open conversations in reducing stigma. Using standup comedy as a lens, the book delves into the experiences of ninety-nine diverse comedians, revealing how they disclose their stigmas in public and what prevents some from having open conversations. The author argues that the scope of stigma resistance is defined by the prejudice of those who stigmatize, making it an unequal endeavor that requires structural change to truly make a difference. Through the voices of these comedians, Health and Inequality in Standup Comedy challenges us to reconceptualize our approach to fighting stigma and discrimination and highlights the importance of implementing policies that decrease segregation. A compelling and eye-opening read for anyone interested in understanding the power of social contact through the unequal, standup comedy world.
Sean M. Viña is assistant professor of sociology at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.
Chapter 1: Why Use Standup to Understand Stigma and Inequality?
Chapter 2: Invisible Stigma from Least to Most Taboo
Chapter 3: Visible Stigmas That Define What Others See
Chapter 4: Testing Social Boundaries
Chapter 5: Tactics to Manage Stigma
Chapter 6: Context Matters: Black and Latino Lives
Chapter 7: Cultivated Outcomes
Chapter 8: The Structure and Culture of Comedy
Chapter 9: Lost Opportunities to Cope and Heal
Conclusion: Lessons Learned
Appendix A: Questionnaire
Appendix B: Supporting Table
About the Author
This volume deals directly with trauma, stigma, and mental health through the lens of comic shticks. In interviews with various standup comedians, Viña deftly probes the pain and suffering of people who use comedy as a means of coping, healing, and dealing with personal crises. He looks at the stigmatization of social problems and social deviance, delving into how some comedy aims at embracing embarrassment or testing social boundaries as part of a risible routine. This work suggests that comedy can enhance stigma reduction. Though not arguing that comedy is a panacea, Viña holds out for its ability to foster empathy. Unfortunately, almost everything becomes a visible or an invisible stigma, from rape to childbearing to homosexual rejection to cancer. Any potentially shameful status seems to invite obscenities as a means of breaking taboos and transcending disgrace. Yet, Viña's sociological approach provides a compelling narrative tenor, collecting and telling poignant stories that form the backdrop of anguished, awkward, and heartbreaking performances, drawing, as Charlie Chaplin would summon, a laugh and a tear. Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals.
"Comedy is often the edge of social change. Sean M. Viña's new book explores this frontier with a focus on how comedy can heal, but it doesn't heal equally. It's qualitative sociology at its finest and an outstanding contribution to how we understand the art of stand up and the way it changes the performers and audience."
"Comedy has always aimed at the very heart of society’s most powerful but often brushed-aside inequities. But through the voices of those who have faced contemporary prejudice and discrimination, Viña reveals how comedians with stigmatized experiences cast a sharp eye on the social norms that continue to rob individuals of their true value. For anyone who thinks that stigma has dissipated, listening and feeling the discomfort of difference is essential."