School of Arts

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Dr Sophie Quirk

Senior Lecturer

School Director of Education



My research and teaching centres on comic and popular performance. In particular, I am interested in the social and political impact of contemporary stand-up comedy performance, and the techniques comedians use to manipulate and control audience response. My 2015 book, Why Stand-up Matters: How Comedians Manipulate and Influence, explores these two themes.

I am a former Kent student, having completed my PhD here in 2011. I have been teaching at Kent since 2007, joining the full-time staff in 2013.

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Quirk, S. (2018). The Politics of British Stand-up Comedy: The New Altenative. [Online]. Palgrave Macmillan. Available at:
Quirk, S. (2015). Why Stand-up Matters: How Comedians Manipulate and Influence. [Online]. Bloomsbury Academic. Available at:
Edited book
Ainsworth, A., Double, O. and Peacock, L. eds. (2017). Popular Performance. [Online]. London, UK: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. Available at:
Quirk, S. (2015). Preaching to the Converted? How Political Comedy Matters. Humor [Online] 29:243-260. Available at:
Quirk, S. (2011). Containing the Audience: The 'Room' in Stand-up Comedy. Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies 8:219-238.
Quirk, S. (2010). Who's in charge? Negotiation, manipulation and comic licence in the work of Mark Thomas. Comedy Studies [Online] 1:113-124. Available at:
Book section
Quirk, S. (2017). What's Special About Stand-up Comedy? Josie Long's Lost Treasures of the Black Heart. In: Ainsworth, A., Double, O. and Peacock, L. eds. Popular Performance. Bloomsbury, pp. 223-246.
Quirk, S. (2014). Review, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg (dirs). Comedy Studies [Online] 2:185-186. Available at:
Conference or workshop item
Quirk, S. (2017). The "All is Lost" Moment. In: Comedy, Populism and Donald Trump.
Quirk, S. (2017). Joke as Text vs Joke as Performance. In: Artificial Intelligence and Comedy Conference.
Quirk, S. (2016). Stand-up Comedy: Resistance or Reinforcement?. In: Comedy and Critical Thought.
Quirk, S. (2016). Suspicion and Resistance: How Stand-up Comedians Combat Manipulation and Illusion. In: TaPRA Conference 2016.
Quirk, S. (2015). Preaching to the Converted? How Political Comedy Matters.
Quirk, S. (2015). What's at Stake for Comedy Audiences? Stand-up as an Ideological Battleground. In: TaPRA Conference 2015.
Quirk, S. (2014). Manipulation and the Dark Arts in Stand-up Comedy and Stage Magic. In: TaPRA Conference 2014.
Quirk, S. (2014). Does Popular Comedy Change the Way We Think?. In: ISHS Conference 2014.
Research report (external)
Quirk, S. (2016). Comedy Clubs Offered a Better Quality of Debate Than the Political Stage. [Website]. Centre for the Study of Journalism, Culture & Community, Bournemouth University. Available at:
Total publications in KAR: 17 [See all in KAR]
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MA/MDrama Stand-Up Comedy: A year-long specialism in which students perform at their own weekly comedy club (Monkeyshine), arrange and perform a series of open mike gigs in established clubs, carry out practical and theoretical research into stand-up, and arrange their best material into a 20-minute showcase in a local venue

Popular Performance: A second year module in which students carry out historical research into a particular topic, and use that as the basis of a live show which they write and perform.

Creative Project: The practical and creative equivalent of a dissertation for third-year students. Drawing on the experiences that have shaped their passions and attitudes across their degree, students utilise their accumulated practical and creative skills to make a performance of their choosing.

Previous teaching has included:

  • Introduction to Stand-up Comedy
  • Modern Theatre
  • Texts for Theatre
  • MA/MDrama Directing


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My current research explores how stand-up comedians have responded to developments in politics, society and industry in the twenty-first century, and the extent to which this has shaped the form and conventions of contemporary stand-up comedy.

My other, developing research interests include all kinds of contemporary, grassroots and DIY performance; the creation, manipulation and subversion of cultures; the use and abuse of showmanship in the political sphere.



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I welcome proposals for postgraduate research projects. I am particularly keen to hear from students considering topics related to any of the following fields:

  • comic performance;
  • popular, folk and DIY genres of performance;
  • the social, cultural or political significance of performance.


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Last Updated: 09/01/2019