Author (Your Name)

Andrew DeStaeblerFollow

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. American Studies Program


Laura Saltz

Second Advisor

Ben Lisle


The general goal of this project is to investigate strategies and approaches used by comedians who rely heavily on racial humor in their acts. To do so, I consider the work of Dick Gregory, Richard Pryor, and Dave Chappelle, all African American male comedians. The first chapter focuses on a strategy employed by all three of these comedians called “marking whiteness.” Greta Fowler Snyder coined this term in her essay, “‘Marking Whiteness’ For Cross-Racial Solidarity” (2015), and uses it to describe strategies that force the “hyper-visibility” of whiteness. This happens through the portrayal of “average” white behavior, with the understanding that whiteness, especially in predominantly white spaces, is often rendered “invisible”—invisible in the sense that whiteness is often seen as unimportant, neutral, a non-factor to white people (Snyder, 301). The second chapter focuses on Pryor and Chappelle, who both explore aspects of blackness in the United States through their jokes about the police. In this discussion, I consider the ways in which black masculinities are regulated, policed, and vulnerable, and trace how the institution of the police actively participates in constructing blackness as abject in the United States.


Comedy, Standup Comedy, Dave Chappelle, Dick Gregory, Richard Pryor, Racial Humor