Publication details [#67142]

Deen, Phillip. 2019. Is Bill Cosby Still Funny?: Separating the Art from the Artist in Stand-up Comedy. Studies in American Humor 5 (2) : 288–308.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
Penn State University Press


Bill Cosby's immorality has raised intriguing aesthetic and ethical issues. Do the crimes that he has been convicted of lessen the aesthetic value of his stand-up and, even if we can enjoy it, should we? This paper first debates the intimate relationship between the comedian and audience. The art form itself is structurally intimate, and at the same time the comedian claims to express an authentic self on stage. After drawing an analogy between the question of the moral character of comedians and the aesthetic value of their stand-up and the debate over the ethical criticism of art, this paper claims that it is reasonable to find a comedian's performance less funny, because stand-up's artistic success relies on this intimacy. It contrasts the comedy of Bill Cosby with that of Louis C.K.