Comedians at work: managing and organising a comedic performance

Document Type


Publication details

Johnston, A & Westwood, RI 2006, 'Comedians at work: managing and organising a comedic performance', paper presented to 2006 Colloquium of the Australasian Humour Scholars Network, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Vic. 18-19 April.


The paper reports on an early phase study of working comedians and how they manage and organise themselves and their contexts in order to stage a comedic performance. Within the humour literature there is a surprising dearth of academic studies of comedians. The study is based on intensive interviews with a sample of approximately 20 comedians as well as some ethnographic observational work within comedy clubs. The sample is mostly Australian with a proportion from the UK. The study focuses upon the ‘backstage' behaviours and practices that lead to the production and staging of a comic performance and so examines the organization of comedy and humour it self. The analysis focuses on what comedians do to manage themselves, other stakeholders in the business and audiences in an attempt to stage an effective performance. These aspects of self management and organising are considered in relation to the creativity, precariousness and vulnerability of a comedic performance.