Englisches Seminar, room 13
The spontaneous co-creation of fiction: Humour in improvised theatre
In this talk I will introduce the research project “The Pragmatics of Fictional Dialogues in Improvised Performance”, a five-year project funded through an SNF PRIMA grant, which my team and I started in February 2020.
The project deals with the question of how the production conditions of a text influence its form and affect the functions of language. More specifically, we study differences and similarities between spontaneously produced fictional texts – in the form of improvised theatre – and two other types of texts: scripted fiction and spontaneous conversation. Our aim is to analyse how humour, characterisation and dialogue differ between scripted and improvised fiction and how these differences are related to spontaneous conversational interaction. The results of this project will contribute to a better understanding of how text production is influenced by the communicative framework in general and, more specifically, by individual factors like fictionality, interaction, spontaneity and immediacy.
I will illustrate the approach of the overall project by presenting results from a case study on humour strategies in improvised theatre, comparing them to humour strategies in scripted television series. The data I analyse come from recorded shows by TJ & Dave, a professional and highly successful duo who have been performing improvised theatrical comedy for more than fifteen years. Studying transcripts and video recordings of their performances, I will demonstrate how humour is co-constructed by the two performers in their shows and how audience reactions play a part in this co-construction.
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