Harmer, Humor and the Hoopla: In the Vanguard of Australian Female Comedy

Peter Lang Publishing
Publication Type:
The Funniest Pages, International Perspectives on Humor in Australia, 2016, 20 pp. 205 - 220 (15)
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I prefer that laughter shall take me unawares. Only so can it master and dissolve me (Beerbohm 1921: 42).A thing is funny when—in some way that is not actually offensive or frightening—it upsets the established order. Every joke is a tiny revolution(Orwell 1945).More than a quarter of a century ago, Australian comedian, journalist and author Wendy Harmer compiled and wrote the first book on Australian women’s humor, (1989).In the preface, she claims that she is seeking ‘to redress the balance’ (Harmer 1989: 7) of the missing canon on Australian female comedians. Where there were copious texts on humor and men, women were conspicuous due to their absence. This chapter, firstly discussing humor through a scholarly lens, goes back to claims and observations made in compiling her book, to interrogate a life spent in the comedic spotlight (including being Editor-in-Chief of , an online web news magazine for women) and compare what she believed then to what she believes now from lived experience.Harmer has been an enduring comedic voice in Australia since the 1980s, first recognized in 1983 for the comedy show series , with Maryanne Fahey. Then she was asked to write for the with John Clarke from 1984–1985 on (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) television. In 1989, she was the first woman to host her own television comedy show, (1989–1992), based on the British TV show .
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