The October 2010 issue of the journal, Critical Quarterly, includes an essay that we thought would interest a number of you. Written by Kyle Stevens (Film Studies, University of Pittsburgh), the essay is entitled “Tossing truths: improvisation and the performative utterances of Nichols and May.” To access the essay online, please click here.
Here is the essay’s abstract:
This paper theorises the style of improvisational comedy innovated by Mike Nichols and Elaine May in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Nichols and May’s commentary relies on the listener’s willingness to grasp – and to mock – conventions of ordinary language, and I recount the duo’s history while examining their affinity to the contemporaneous work of J. L. Austin. Doing so allows me to demonstrate that Nichols and May complicate Austin’s class of ‘performatives’ by recuperating the importance of truth, and that their work occupies a middle ground between referential and fictional language.