School of Arts

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Dr Oliver Double

Reader in Drama

Head of Comedy and Popular Performance



Oliver Double has been at the University of Kent since 1999, teaching and researching comic and popular performance.

Before becoming an academic, he worked as a stand-up comedian on the national comedy circuit ('Delightful' -The Guardian), and set up the Last Laugh, Sheffield's longest running comedy club. He continues to perform occasionally, for example in his one-man shows Saint Pancreas (2006, DVD available here) and Break a Leg (2015, on YouTube here).

He has written a number of books, chapters and articles on stand-up comedy, variety theatre and popular performance, and helped to establish the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive, based at Kent’s Templeman Library. He presents a monthly podcast about this archive, called A History of Comedy in Several Objects (available here).

His teaching is based on his research, giving students access to cutting edge knowledge and an extraordinary range of unpublished historical documents. He is proud of the number of his graduates who are now working professionally as comedians and comic performers.

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Double, O. (2014). Getting the Joke (2nd edition)The Inner Workings of Stand-Up Comedy. London and New York: Bloomsbury.
Double, O. (2012). Britain Had Talent: A History of Variety Theatre. [Online]. Houndsmills, basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Available at:
Double, O. (2005). Getting the joke: The inner workings of stand-up comedy. London: Methuen.
Double, O. (1997). Stand-Up! On Being a Comedian. London: Methuen Drama.
Edited book
Ainsworth, A., Double, O. and Peacock, L. eds. (2017). Popular Performance. [Online]. London, UK: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. Available at:
Double, O. (2018). The origin of the term stand-up comedy update. Comedy Studies [Online] 9. Available at:
Double, O. (2017). Tragedy Plus Time: Transforming Life Experience into Stand-Up Comedy. New Theatre Quarterly [Online] 33:143-155. Available at:
Double, O. (2017). The origin of the term ‘stand-up comedy’. Comedy Studies [Online] 8:1 -4. Available at:
Ainsworth, A., Double, O. and Peacock, L. (2017). Editorial. Theatre, Dance and Performance Training [Online] 8:125-128. Available at:
Double, O. (2017). ‘[T]his is eating your greens, this is doing your homework’: writing and rehearsing a full-length stand-up show. Comedy Studies [Online]:137-153. Available at:
Double, O. (2015). ‘What do you do?’: Stand-up comedy versus the proper job. Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization [Online] 15:651-669. Available at:
Double, O. (2012). Max Miller plays with Freud's obstacle: Innuendo and performance technique in variety comedy. Comedy Studies [Online] 3:93-104. Available at:
Double, O. (2010). Not the Definitive Version: an Interview with Ross Noble. Comedy Studies [Online] 1:5-19. Available at:
Double, O. (2009). Teddy Brown and the Art of Performing for the British Variety Stage. New Theatre Quarterly [Online] 25:379-390. Available at:
Double, O. and Wilson, M. (2008). '"I am a Poor, Skinny Man": Persona and physicality in the work of Karl Valentin'. Studies in Theatre and Performance [Online] 28:213-221. Available at:
Double, O. (2007). Punk rock as popular theatre. New Theatre Quarterly [Online] 23:35-48. Available at:
Double, O. (2007). Karl Valentin’s “Father and Son Discuss the War". Studies in Theatre and Performance 27:5-11.
Double, O. and Wilson, M. (2004). Karl Valentin's illogical subversion: stand-up comedy and the alienation effect. New Theatre Quarterly XX:203-215.
Double, O. (2000). Teaching Stand-Up Comedy. A Mission: Impossible? Studies in Theatre and Performance 20:14-23.
Double, O. (2000). Characterization in stand-up comedy: From Ted Ray to Billy Connolly, via Bertolt Brecht. New Theatre Quarterly [Online] 16:315-323. Available at:
Double, O. (1994). Laughing all the way to the bank? Alternative comedy in the provinces. New Theatre Quarterly [Online] X:255-262. Available at:
Book section
Double, O. and Wilson, M. (2006). Brecht and cabaret. in: Thomson, P. and Sacks, G. eds. Cambridge Companion to Brecht, 2nd Edition. Cambridge University Press.
Double, O. (1996). Alternative comedy: from radicalism to commercialism. in: Merkin, R. ed. Popular Theatres? Liverpool: Liverpool John Moores University, pp. 127-139.
Double, O. (2015). Break a Leg. [YouTube video]. KTV. Available at:
Double, O. (2007). Saint Pancreas. [DVD and Live Performance].
Total publications in KAR: 25 [See all in KAR]
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I teach students about stand-up comedy as well as more general performance techniques. This involves practical, theoretical and historical aspects and wherever possible I try to look at these side by side. Students working with me might find themselves giving a presentation on Koestler’s theory of comedy, or doing a stand-up routine to an audience of 100 people. Pretty much all of my teaching grows out of my research interests and my professional experience, and for me, it’s about much more than just writing Powerpoint presentations for lectures and marking essays. I also compère my students’ shows, which means appearing onstage and getting laughs over fifteen times a year.

Modules taught:

  • DR594 Popular Performance. Students examine particular popular performance genres (for example, variety theatre, slapstick, cabaret, pantomime, radio comedy). Initially, students develop relevant performance skills, which might include, for example, addressing an audience, developing a stage persona, dance, singing, and/or simple acrobatics. 
  • DR346 Popular Performance: Pubs, Clubs and Citizenship. This module introduces first year students to ideas of theatre and performance as sites of citizenship, through exploration of contemporary, popular forms such as music gigs, performance poetry and comedy.
  • DR676 Introduction to Stand-Up. A third year module which introduces students to theoretical and historical aspects of stand-up comedy, and gives them a chance to perform their own short self-written routines.


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I am interested in stand-up comedy and various other types of popular performance. What particularly interests me is anything in which the performer works straight out to the audience, performing in the first person and the present tense in which the audience can make their opinions known by laughing, applauding, heckling or booing.

In addition to my books on stand-up and variety theatre, I have written articles and chapters on the early twentieth century German comedian Karl Valentin, Brecht's relationship with cabaret, punk rock as popular theatre, and the enormously fat xylophonist Teddy Brown. I am a contributing editor to New Theatre Quarterly, and I am on the Advisory Board of Comedy Studies. I've also written a number of entries for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

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I am interested in supervising students researching stand-up comedy, comic performance in general, variety theatre, popular music performance (particularly punk), or any related area of popular performance.

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Last Updated: 29/11/2018