Mar 17th 2023

We’re excited to welcome Madeline Lane-McKinley and Dave Maher to the store for an event in celebration of Madeline’s new book Comedy Against Work: Utopian Longing in Dystopian Times.

Humor, Groucho Marx asserted, is “reason gone mad.” For Walter Benjamin, laughter was “the most revolutionary emotion.” In a moment when great numbers of people are reevaluating their commitment to the hellscape we call “work,” what does it mean to take comedy seriously—and to turn it against work?

Both philosophically brilliant and deeply personal, Comedy Against Work demonstrates how laughing about work can puncture the pretensions of tyrannical bosses while uniting us around a commitment to radically new ways of making the world together. At the same time, Lane-McKinley exposes a war at the heart of contemporary comedy between those who see comedy as a weapon for punching down and those whose laughter points to social transformation. From stand-up to sitcoms, podcasts to late night, comedy reveals our longing to subvert power, escape the prison of work, and envision the joys of a liberated world.

Madeline Lane-McKinley is a writer, feminist cultural critic, and the author of Comedy Against Work: Utopian Longing in Dystopian Times (Common Notions, 2022). She is a co-editor of Blind Field: A Journal of Cultural Inquiry, and teaches at Portland State University.

Dave Maher is a Chicago comedian whose candid and mischievous one-man shows blend standup, improvisation, storytelling, and theater. He appeared on “This American Life”  to talk about waking from a monthlong coma to read the eulogies friends wrote about him on Facebook. On his podcast This Is Your Afterlife, he talks to artists and activists about death, the afterlife, identity, and transformation.

Dave has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and Steppenwolf Theatre, opened for Chris Gethard, was featured in the pages of The Guardian, and toured theaters, bars, and DIY venues around the world. He works as an actor (FX’s “The Bear”), voice artist, audio description writer, and teacher of storytelling and creative practice at the Annoyance Theatre.

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