Anthology Film Archives


November 2 – November 15

In the late 1960s, the one-liner style of conventional Borscht Belt stand-up began to be supplanted by a radical new group of comics: performers who wrote their own material, often laced with daring social and political commentary, that pushed the audience into uncharted territory, shaking up traditional ideas about what was funny, and about where entertainment ended and life began. Inspired by the provocative performances of Lenny Bruce, this new wave of comedians in the 1970s – including Richard Pryor and Andy Kaufman – shocked audiences with everything from obscenity, to brutal personal confession, to performance-art-inspired antics that left some wondering what the joke was about. Even so, they gained enormous popular followings.

At the same time, another revolution was occurring in visual art, as performance and conceptual art began to gain traction and the first consumer video cameras made it possible for artists to record themselves, sometimes delivering deadpan routines that felt like a deconstructed version of stand-up. Some artists, such as Michael Smith, tried to cross over from the visual art context into the comedy world, while others, like Eric Bogosian, planted the ‘comedy routine’ firmly in the art world, with late-night stands at The Mudd Club, Artists Space, and The Kitchen.

Now, at a time when the internet has led to an explosion of stand-up comedy websites and video channels, this crossover between the art world and mainstream entertainment is more relevant than ever. Presented by the New York performance biennial Performa 11 in conjunction with a live contemporary comedy series called PERFORMA HA!, NOT FUNNY will look at some of the key works produced during this remarkable era, both in the stand-up scene and the art world, and at the artists and comedians who are influenced by this material today.

Presented by Performa. Curated by Lana Wilson. Special thanks to Josh Kline (Electronic Arts Intermix), Andrew Lampert & Jed Rapfogel (Anthology Film Archives), and RoseLee Goldberg (Performa).

Part of Performa 11 (November 1-21, 2011), the fourth edition of the internationally acclaimed biennial of new visual art performance presented by Performa, the leading organization dedicated to exploring the critical role of live performance in the history of 20th-century art, and to encouraging new directions in performance for the 21st century. For more info, please visit:

< Back to Series