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Preview: "Whose Life is it Anyway" explores stand-up as embodied form

Breaking Up With Jesus press photo - landscape.jpg
Photo courtesy of Joseph Richards.

When Joseph Richards first performed stand-up for a final as an undergraduate student at Georgia College and State University, they said their jokes were awful, but it sparked their love for comedy.

On Thursday and Friday, they will put on their 30 minute original interactive stand-up show “Whose Life is it Anyway? Exploring the Comic Body on Stage” at the Media Art Space on Franklin Street.  

“If you want to see a slightly unplanned, interactive exploration of how many bodies are onstage in a stand-up show at one time, this is the show,” Richards said

Richards is now a doctoral candidate in the Department of Communications at UNC, writing their dissertation on contemporary stand-up comedy from 2013-2023 from a performance studies focus.

They are interested in researching stand-up as an embodied form, rather than just the content of the jokes, and they said their upcoming show will be an exploration of that idea.

“If I tell a story onstage as a comedian — let’s say I talk about my mom or my brother — all of a sudden, I’ve brought them onstage whether or not they’re in the audience,” Richards said. “I’ve brought them — I’ve started shaping them in front of you."

Richards said they began to fully flesh out the idea for “Whose Life is it Anyway” when they were approached by artist-in-residence and teaching professor Joseph Megel, who asked if they had any ideas for a show. 

Megel, who has worked with Richards in the classroom and on the stage for the past two years, described Richards as interested in looking at the power of stand-up as it relates to identity. 

“What I like about their work is they explore — you know, they explore humor, but they explore the humor through the lens of both acceptance of self and acceptance of others and identity politics, but through humor as a way of engaging with it,” he said

Megel said that the show is going to open up a different avenue of connection and understanding to what comedy is and what it does. 

Fellow doctoral candidate in the Department of Communications Dafna Kaufman said that Richards creates a balance between being playful as well as being both wise and having an understanding of the human condition.

“It’s almost like you could miss how smart and funny they are, because the lines are just whizzing past you,” Kaufman said. “But also, I just think that they take a lot of care in their performance, so any performance Joey does is full of richness, and it has so many layers.” 

Richards explained that the production is “slightly unplanned” as a result of its interactive nature.

Kaufman said that Richards is a thoughtful performer, and even in the improvisational elements, she’s positive that they’ve thought through the millions of different ways to go.

“What’s been most fun for me is starting to think about the prompts and the power that I give to the audience,” Richards said. “That is where the interesting piece is going to happen because obviously, part of it is the comedian will talk about something onstage — but then the audience response also shapes that, whether we laugh or don’t laugh, whatever happens.”

Both performances of “Whose Life is it Anyway” will take place at 7:00 p.m. and are free and open to the public. 


@dthlifestyle |

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