Comedy and Agency

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An essay by David Robbins

An essay by David Robbins

Comedy has an unusually high profile these days. Not only is it booming commercially, with new outlets, schools, and countless aspirants, it’s become part of a national discourse about truth, media, and the theater of government. At the same time its effectiveness as a subversive tool is in question. Artist and writer David Robbins, who has been working comedy angles on and in the art world for thirty years, helps us make sense of the situation with this clear-eyed take on the parameters of the comic imagination, and how today’s comedians have more options than most are inclined to use.

David Robbins has had forty solo exhibitions since 1985. His work Talent (1986) is widely recognized as announcing the era of the celebrity artist. He is the author of six books, including The Velvet Grind: Selected Essays, Interviews, Satires 1983-2005 and most recently Concrete Comedy: An Alternative History of Twentieth-Century Comedy. He lives in a leafy suburb of a third-tier American city.

 
Praise for “Comedy and Agency”:

“David Robbins has written an incisive analysis about the relationship between those in power and those who speak truth to power using humor as the delivery mechanism with the essential spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down in the most delightful way. “Comedy and Agency” is a must-read as never before has the role of the jester been more essential to the health and welfare of our society than it is right now.”

–Dan Pasternack, Producer/Writer

 

Praise for Concrete Comedy:

“This is the strongest, more provocative book of arts criticism, certainly about comedy, read by me in a long time.”
–Richard Kostelanetz

 

Praise for David Robbins:

“He’s funny, for an artist.”
–Kirsten Stoltmann, artist

“Robbins is a paradox: a one-hit wonder who somehow manages to remain relevant.”
— Felony Swan, Director, Center for Contemporary Acquisitions

“History passes through everyone, apparently.”
— Philip Broth, guitarist, The Playoff Hopes

“More than just positioning himself in the overlap between art and entertainment, as a conceptual artist Robbins embraced entertainment without apology.”
–Sean O’Passidy, color balancer

“I don’t think success holds much appeal for him. You might be able to dismiss him as a dilettante if his stuff weren’t so consistently ambitious for the culture.”
–Rex Reason, gadfly

“Robbins has still got it.”
–Matt Cook, poet

“Does he consider this a career?”
— Curator at an American art museum