School of Arts



Shaun has a background in theatre and philosophy, and much of his work attempts to bring those two disciplines into fruitful dialogue with each other. Prior to joining the faculty at Kent he was a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the department of Philosophy at the University of Liverpool, and he previously taught at the Royal College of Art and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

He is the author of two monographs, A Philosophy of Comedy on Stage and Screenand Rethinking Practice as Research and the Cognitive Turn, published by Bloomsbury and Palgrave respectively. He is Primary Investigator on the BA/Leverhulme funded project Comedy on the Spectrum: Exploring Humour Production in Adolescents with Autism, and a key focus of his current research is comedy and disability. 

As a theatre practitioner, he worked with the Dummy Company on several productions including a residency at the University of Cambridge and with the Rare Theatricall on the final production of their Leverhulme Fellowship at the Royal Academy of Music. As a producer he specialises in site-specific work, with his credits including Flatpack, a site-specific opera in Ikea.

Current Administrative Roles
Chief Examiner for the School of Arts
Co-director of the Centre for Cognition and Kinesthetics in Performance

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

May, S. (2015). Rethinking Practice as Research and the Cognitive Turn. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
May, S. (2015). A Philosophy of Comedy on Stage and Screen: You Have to 'Be There'. [Online]. London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama. Available at:
Book section
May, S. (2013). Rise of Being-in-the-World. in: Huss, J. ed. Planet of the Ape and Philosophy. Chicago: Open Court, pp. 255-262.
May, S. (2017). Autism and comedy: using theatre workshops to explore humour with adolescents on the spectrum. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance [Online] 22:436-445. Available at:
Allen, R. and May, S. (2015). Encountering Anthropomorphism: Editorial. Performance Research [Online] 20:1-3. Available at:
May, S. (2014). Abject Metamorphosis and Mirthless Laughter: On Human-to-Animal Transitions and the 'Disease of Being Finite'. Performance Research [Online] 19:72-80. Available at:
May, S. (2013). Comedy on the Spectrum: An Interview with Aspergers Are Us. Comedy Studies [Online] 4:103-110. Available at:
May, S. (2013). Take My Gag, Please!Joke Theft and Copyright in Stand-up Comedy. Comedy Studies [Online] 4:195-203. Available at:
May, S. (2012). Embodiment, Transparency and the Disclosiveness of Failure. Body, Space and Technology [Online] 11:1-8. Available at:
May, S. (2017). Reader in comedy: an anthology of theory & criticism. Studies in Theatre and Performance [Online]:1-2. Available at:
Edited journal
May, S. and Allen, R. eds. (2015). 'On Anthropomorphism', Performance Research 20(2). Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts [Online] 20:1-3. Available at:
Total publications in KAR: 11 [See all in KAR]


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Research Interests

Shaun is the author of two monographs, A Philosophy of Comedy on Stage and Screen and Rethinking Practice as Research and the Cognitive Turn, and co-editor of a special issue of Performance Research on the topic of anthropomorphism. He is Primary Investigator on the BA/Leverhulme funded project Comedy on the Spectrum: Exploring Humour Production in Adolescents with Autism, which looks at what empirical differences there are between humour produced by autistic and non-autistic individuals. More generally, a key strand of his current research is the topic of comedy and disability. 

During his postdoc in Liverpool, he worked with Dr. Panayiota Vassilopoulou and Dr. Daniel Whistler on Patterns of Thought, a project that seeks to develop a new pedagogy for teaching philosophy of art to children.

Shaun was co-convenor of the London Comedy Forum, an interdisciplinary network of scholars looking at comedy and humour, and he is on the editorial board of the journal Comedy Studies. In 2013 he worked with Dr. Xela Batchelder on Traverse Through Time, a series of talks looking at the history, influence and future of the Traverse Theatre, and more recently he has helped with the organisation of conferences on Comedy and Politics (January 2015) and Tadeusz Kantor (September 2015).

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DR594: 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.

DR317: Texts for Theatre
A first-year core module providing an introduction to the key approaches employed when working with, and analysing, play texts.

Shaun will be on study leave in Spring 2016.

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Shaun is interested in working with students on any of his main research interests, but is particularly interested in proposals for projects on:

  • Comedy and Humour
  • Philosophy and/or Phenomenology of Performance
  • Puppetry and Object Theatre
  • Popular Performance
  • Performance and Disability
  • Site-specific Performance
  • Mind, Cognition and Performance
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School of Arts - © University of Kent

Jarman Building, The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7UG, T: +44 (0)1227 764000

Last Updated: 19/06/2017