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Impersonated personae – paralanguage, dialogism and affiliation in stand-up comedy

Lorenzo Logi and Michele Zappavigna
From the journal HUMOR


This paper argues that paralinguistic resources employed by stand-up comedians to construe textual personae (impersonated characters) make a substantial contribution to the creation of humor by allowing the comedian to distance themselves from particular social values and by referencing shared cultural stereotypes. A stretch of stand-up comedy discourse is analyzed to explore how gesture and voice quality contribute to the construal of projected personae. These are mapped in relation to the interaction between comedian and audience to discern how they evoke specific social values. The results suggest that textual personae are deployed by the comedian to embody stereotypes that connote particular value positions, and that the comedian can construe blended or hybrid personae through the use of multiple semiotic resources. Impersonation thus constitutes a powerful resource for negotiating social values in order to generate tension and create humor.

Corresponding author: Lorenzo Logi, School of the Arts and Media, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, E-mail:


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Received: 2019-11-18
Accepted: 2020-04-16
Published Online: 2021-02-11
Published in Print: 2021-08-26

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