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ABSTRACT. In this paper I offer a survey of British mainstream comedy’s responses to shifts in gender discourses from the 1940s to the end of the twentieth century. An examination of the performances of mainly male comics recorded for television or radio reveals an engagement with gender discourses of their respective times that is far from simplistic and far from consistent. While acknowledging the dominance of a male perspective, I suggest that the work of, primarily, Max Miller, Monty Python, the Carry On team and Les Dawson is more complex in its handling of gender roles than is often assumed, including by latter-day parodies. I ultimately argue that while one can identify an increasing participation in the widening acceptance of gender equality, there has been a retention of gender roles in mainstream British comedy that dates back at least to the 1940s. But I also question assumptions about such representations. pp. 188–195

Keywords: gender, masculinity, sexuality, comedy, Britain

JOHN HEATH
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University of Vienna, Austria

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