Sketchy traditions : Argentinian sketch comedy from popular theater to television
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This dissertation describes the 130-year history of sketch comedy in Argentina, from its beginnings in popular theater to its passage to radio and eventually to television, as well as a few of its cinematic manifestations. Sketch, with its short, open-ended format and its combination of dialogism, exaggeration, improvisation, parody, bawdy bodily humor, and absurdity, has often provided an ideal vehicle for comical sociopolitical commentary. For this reason, it has held special audience appeal in Argentina, where widespread questioning of hegemonic discourse has arisen in response to repeated bouts of authoritarian government coupled with economic decline. My examination of Argentinian sketch combines close readings of written, spoken, and audiovisual texts with analysis of their historical and industrial contexts. I use Bergson’s principle of the laughable as “mechanical” to show how sketch creates improvisational spaces around Diana Taylor’s “cultural repertoires” and Pierre Bourdieu’s “habitus.” This critical dusting-off of an often academically disregarded form of popular cultural production reveals the evolution of a sketchy tradition that has often appeared disreputable or even dangerous to those who would uphold the status quo. Ultimately, sketch’s ability to provoke a certain dépaysement may prove of special interest at a time which finds us, as Paul Gilroy argues, in need of moving beyond the supposedly homogeneous categories imposed by globalist neo-imperialism as well as fundamentalist localism.