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Brunel University London’s Centre for Comedy Studies Research will hold a symposium on the work of Baron Cohen at the university’s Uxbridge campus on 11 March.
Symposium organiser Simon Weaver, who is investigating the response of 18- to 29-year-olds to Baron Cohen’s comedy, describes the University of Cambridge-educated actor as “an incredibly original comedian”.
“His is a very complex, unstable, postmodern, ambiguous form of comedy,” said Dr Weaver, who identifies “ethnicity, race or nationalism as a key feature in each of his characters”.
“Different audience groups receive the comedy in different ways. It’s the relationship between stereotype and offence that I’m interested in examining,” he added.
The symposium comes ahead of Baron Cohen’s latest controversial film Grimsby, in which he plays a football hooligan who goes on the run with his brother, a black-ops spy, in the Humberside town of the film’s title.
The papers to be presented at the Sacha Baron Cohen symposium include: “No Laughing Matter? Race, Identity and the Humour of Sacha Baron Cohen”, from Richard Howells of King’s College London; “Sacha Baron Cohen: Gonzo Trickster and the Art of Comic Insurrection”, by University of Essex academic Helena Bassil-Morozow, while Dr Weaver will talk on “‘Even though it’s sexist and racist in some parts, it’s still funny’: An Audience Reception Study of the Comedy of Sacha Baron Cohen”.
Brunel’s comedy research centre, which was launched in October 2013 by Brunel alumni, comedians Lee Mack and Jo Brand, will also hold a symposium on Italian comedy audiences, including one paper on how English comedy TV titles may get lost in translation when the programmes are shown in Italy.
Another symposium, due to be held in March, will explore the representation of disability in comedy with reference to shows such as Little Britain, The Last Leg and Trollied.