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Seriously Funny: Disability and the Paradoxical Power of Humor

Shawn Chandler Bingham and Sara E. Green
Seriously Funny: Disability and the Paradoxical Power of Humor
ISBN: 978-1-62637-520-8
ISBN: 978-1-62637-565-9
2017/200 pages/LC: 2016016378
Disability in Society
"[A] welcome and necessary book."—Tom Coogan, Contemporary Sociology

"[A] fresh and creative work that furthers our sociological understanding of disability, culture, arts, and social change."—Sandi Kawecka Nenga, American Journal of Sociology

"Readers will come away... with a good sense of how disability humor works in today’s world, as well as greater understanding of the achievements of disability comedians and the costs of embodying disability on stage while simultaneously challenging social and cultural norms.... [T]he authors demonstrate that humor, and those who use it wisely and intentionally, have an important role to play in society’s evolving understanding of disability."—Daniel J. Wilson, H-Disability, H-Net Reviews

"Offer[s] a unique look into the ways in which disability comedy, as both a tool of empowerment and critique, has evolved over time."—Choice

"Ranging from court jesters to twenty-first-century comedians, this is a wonderful accounting of what is going on with disability and humor."—Beth Haller, Towson University

"A rare combination of rich analysis, engaging material, and a very accessible writing style.... Seriously Funny proves that the study of disability empowerment can be fun while also successfully grappling with serious political and theoretical work."—Allison Carey, Shippensburg University


Exploring a paradox, Shawn Bingham and Sara Green show how humor has been used both to challenge traditional views of disability and to reinforce negative stereotypes and social inequalities.

Seriously Funny ranges from ancient Greek dramas to medieval court jesters to contemporary comedy, from stage performances to the experiences of daily life. Rich with insights into issues of identity and social stratification, it offers an eye-opening perspective on attitudes toward disability across the ages.


Shawn Chandler Bingham is associate professor of sociology and director of the honors program at Colorado State University. Sara E. Green is associate professor of sociology at the University of South Florida.


  • The Social Significance of Disability Humor.
  • Humor as Aesthetic, Analysis, and Activism.
  • Disability and Humor in Historical Context.
  • A Twenty-First-Century Cast of Comic Characters.
  • Creating New Narratives.
  • Disability Humor in a Politically Correct World.
  • Using Humor to Reimagine Society.
  • Appendix: Biographical Sketches of the Comedians Interviewed.