In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Editor's Drawers
  • Lawrence Howe (bio)

We're kicking off this third decade of the millennium with a general issue that we're very proud of. First, we're delighted that our last issue generated reader feedback for our feature, "On Second Thought." We hope to hear more from you—and from more of you. We take these responses as a signal that the journal is meeting your expectations as humor scholars.

Now to the major stuff: we open this issue with Judith Yaross Lee's thoughtful invitation to humor colleagues to participate in a critical dialogue that considers American humor as emerging from and engaging with "matters of empire." With this phrase, she is emphasizing "the unequal transnational political relationships shaping the basic components and rhetorical conventions of comic traditions in the United States," and she highlights "matters … in the plural because empire constitutes more than a single phenomenon." These matters, she notes, "show the significance of transnational rhetorical and political relationships in American comic expression, reflecting both continuity with and divergence from imported (and exported?) international traditions across many media and eras." This is an ambitious—in the best sense of the word—undertaking that follows from Lee's long and distinguished career as a humor scholar (which includes a stint as editor of this very journal) and her teaching in international contexts. Moreover, it bears underscoring that this "invitation" is not simply a rhetorical gesture; rather, the broad topic that Lee lays out will be the topic of a weekend symposium at the Center for Mark Twain Studies in Elmira, NY, in October 2020. Thus, the invitation is an explicit appeal to participate in a scholarly enterprise that promises to have long-range importance. We encourage everyone who is inspired by Lee's call to scholarly arms to begin mapping out their [End Page 1] own explorations of this territory and submit a proposal for inclusion in the symposium. Incidentally, having attended the last two of these autumn events, I can attest that they are really rich discussions about their topics in a remarkable setting—Quarry Farm, Mark Twain's summer home.

Next up we have two articles that deal with different aspects of contemporary comedy. The first, by StAH's own David Gillota, begins by acknowledging the conventions of stand-up comedy specials as filmed live performances and then focuses particularly on comedians who challenge these conventions through innovative filming and editing. "Beyond Liveness: Experimentation in the Stand-up Special" analyzes how comedians like Chelsea Peretti, Fred Armisen, and Maria Bamford deploy versions of parody of stand-up that subvert its representation as a live performance and install "the stand-up special as a distinct text in its own right, as opposed to a 'next-best-thing' approximation of the live performance." And as such, Gillota argues, they reconfigure the relationship between comic performer and audience.

Steven S. Kapica, in "'Like a Realtor in Peoria': Patton Oswalt, Twitter, and Heckling as Social Activism," deals not with live stand-up but with the migration of comedy to social media. He analyzes a particular exchange between Patton Oswalt, a stand-up comedian with a high profile on Twitter, and a real estate agent who trolled Oswalt on the social media platform and ended up on the short end of the battle of wits. Kapica approaches the phenomenon of social media dustups like this one with a rhetorician's insight, shrewdly analyzing how the comedian-heckler relationship that has long been part of the comedy club environment is transformed into a very different kind of spectacle in the digital public sphere.

The last of our feature articles is "Laughter's Truths: Hurston, Ellison, and Open-Ended Dialogue," by Juniper Ellis. Focusing on Zora Neale Hurston's play Polk County, set in a 1930s lumber camp in Lofton, Florida, Ellis explains how Hurston's text connects with an African American tradition of using humor to unmask deception and to create community. Ellis's finely layered argument draws on Ralph Ellison's commentary on laughter informed, in part, by the philosophical and rhetorical insights of Kenneth Burke. This nuanced reading of Hurston provides a pathway for further investigations on laughter...