This image is the cover for the book Sketch Comedy

Sketch Comedy

A history of sketch comedy on American television and analysis of what it says about American culture and society.

In Sketch Comedy: Identity, Reflexivity, and American Television, Nick Marx examines some of the genre’s most memorable?and controversial?moments from the early days of television to the contemporary line-up. Through explorations of sketches from well-known shows such as Saturday Night Live, The State, Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele, and more, Marx argues that the genre has served as a battleground for the struggle between comedians who are pushing the limits of what is possible on television and network executives who are more mindful of the financial bottom line. Whether creating new catchphrases or transgressing cultural taboos, sketch comedies give voice to marginalized performers and audiences, providing comedians and viewers opportunities to test their own ideas about their place in society, while simultaneously echoing mainstream cultural trends. The result, Marx suggests, is a hilarious and flexible form of identity play unlike anything else in American popular culture and media.

“An excellent study of a long-neglected area in television/media studies and is part of a larger turn toward the centrality of comedy in post-war U.S. culture.” —Jeffrey Sconce, Northwestern University

“A stalwart of television . . . sketch comedy finally gets the in-depth critical attention it deserves . . . Marx shows how sketch comedy has fit (and been constrained by) TV’s industrial contexts, from live variety shows in its earliest days to movement across media in the era of multiple platforms. These case studies not only chart sketch comedy’s past, they provide the theoretical and analytical tools to consider its future.” —Ethan Thompson, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi

Nick Marx

Nick Marx is Associate Professor of Media and Visual Culture in the Department of Communication Studies at Colorado State University. He is editor (with Matt Sienkiewicz and Ron Becker) of Saturday Night Live and American TV and (with Matt Sienkiewicz) The Comedy Studies Reader.

Indiana University Press