Sam Friedman: Comedy, distinction and cultural capital
Welcome to another public lecture hosted by the Classes and Elites Research Seminar.
In this public lecture, Dr. Sam Friedman will explore how taste in comedy function as a expression of cultural capital. The ability to appreciate the "right" kinds of comedy, but also, crucially, to be able to appreciate comedy in the right way, is a shown to be a powerful distinction - also expressed in disdain for those who do not "get it".
Sam Friedman. Foto: City University London
Traditionally considered lowbrow art par excellence, British comedy has grown steadily in legitimacy since the ‘Alternative Comedy Movement’ of the early 1980s. Yet while there might be evidence of a transformation in British comic production, there is little understanding of how this has been reflected in patterns of consumption. Indeed, there is a remarkable absence of studies probing comedy taste in British cultural sociology, most notably in Bennett et al’s (2009) recent and otherwise exhaustive mapping of cultural taste and participation. Dr. Friedman aims to plug this gap in the literature by examining contemporary comedy taste cultures in Britain. Drawing on a large-scale survey and in-depth interviews carried out at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, he argues that comedy now represents an emerging field for the culturally privileged to activate their cultural capital resources. However, unlike previous studies on cultural capital and taste, this research finds that field-specific ‘comic cultural capital’ is mobilised less through taste for certain legitimate ‘objects’ of comedy and more through the expression of rarefied and somewhat ‘disinterested’ styles of comic appreciation. In short, it is ‘embodied’ rather than ‘objectified’ forms of cultural capital that largely distinguish the privileged in the field of comedy.
The talk is based on Dr. Friedman's book Comedy and Distinction: The Cultural Currency of a ‘Good’ Sense of Humour, published with Routledge in 2014:
Dr. Sam Friedman is Assistant Professor of sociology at The London School of Economics and Political Science - LSE. He works on issues of social stratification and class and has published extensively on those topics. His current research concerns how social mobility affects people's cultural tastes and identities. He is also part of the team of researchers, led by Professor Mike Savage, currently analysing the BBC Great British Class Survey, the largest survey of class ever conducted in the UK (with 320,000 respondents).