Irony's Potential as Subversive Strategy: A Case Study of Anti-Racist Stand-Up Comedy

  • Charlotte Ortmanns
Keywords: Irony, Subversion, Stand-Up Comedy, Anti-Racism, Critical Public Pedagogy


In this paper, I evaluate the potential of irony to subvert racist discourse.Irony is characterised by semantic forms that engage explicitand implicit language so as to communicate oppositional or contradictorymeanings for satirical or contentious purposes. This processis complicated as meaning often remains contested betweenthe author of a statement and its various interpreters. My analysis ofthe stand-up comedian Aamer Rahman’s work shows how irony canbe used by comedians in order to subvert dominant and exploitativediscourses. In particular, I illustrate how irony provides him with atool to evoke and simultaneously distance himself from anti-Muslimracist discourses. For white audiences with an interest in deconstructingtheir own complicity in racism, his comedy can functionas a Critical Public Pedagogy that enables critical self-reflection.