Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Media, Art, and Text

First Advisor

Dr. Nicholas Sharp

Second Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Hodges

Third Advisor

Dr. Clarence Thomas

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Dan Roberts


Humor has long been an effective way to engage difficult sociopolitical topics in a way that avoids polemical confrontation and provides opportunity for pleasure, catharsis and self-knowledge. In the context of today’s polarized politics and protest, creative satirical performance that deploys “symbolic tinkering” can provide a “comic frame of reference” that, according to Kenneth Burke, more effectively conveys its message while providing reflexive insight. The satirical Church of the SubGenius naturally practices this rhetorical frame in their multimedia creations. Using the lens of Burke’s Attitudes Toward History, this essay is an analysis of SubGenius rhetoric with a focus on their Hour of Slack live radio program and the book Revelation X to provide an informative example of Burke’s comic frame applied, and clarify the nature of its utility by exploring the rhetorical impact of the Church of the SubGenius and the relevance of its “comic corrective.” Politically cynical, SubGenii are nevertheless keen cultural critics whose sophisticated use of a complex comic rhetoric warrants more serious attention.


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Date of Submission