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Female Jewish Comedians: Grotesque Mimesis and Transgressing Stereotypes

  • Roberta Mock

Female Jewish stereotypes such as the ‘Jewish Mother’, the ‘Jewish American Princess’, and the ‘Radical Bitch’ are often closely associated with sexuality. Roberta Mock proceeds from Riv-Ellen Prell's premise that these stereotypes are a projection of male Jewish fears of a changing secular society which yet must sustain religious continuity. She links a discussion of theoretical transgression of women's social roles to the physicalization of this transgression by female Jewish comedians who embody an explicit rebellion against function. Through the comic mimesis of established stereotypes, often combining more than one in a single characterization, female Jewish comedians typify themselves (to excess) from another's point of view, transforming themselves from the object of a gaze to subjects who redirect its focus. The appeal of these comedians moves away from a localized female (perhaps Jewish) audience to a more inclusive acceptance by applying Bakhtin's theories of ‘the grotesque body’, creating a subversion which embodies the ‘normal’ by being ‘abnormal’. The Jewish woman comedian is placed in the difficult position of being estranged from the community which ‘created’ her by being associated with the dominant culture, while being tolerated but not accepted as ‘one of them’ by that dominant culture. Roberta Mock teaches Theatre and Performance at the University of Plymouth. She is a co-founder of Lusty Juventus theatre company, and is currently editing a book entitled Performing Processes, which explores the relationship between the process of creating performance and spectator response.

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New Theatre Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0266-464X
  • EISSN: 1474-0613
  • URL: /core/journals/new-theatre-quarterly
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