Media and the Inner World

Press Release: Comedy and psychoanalysis: When two worlds collide

What is the psychology of humour and jokes? Why do we laugh and why do some of us want to make others laugh? What is it that prompts us to laugh at others and make them the butt of jokes?

Leading comedians and academics will join forces in an exploration of the links between comedy and the psychological and sociological worlds, with a night of stand up comedy and academic discussion at Jermyn Street Theatre this Friday July 9,  2.30 – 4.30pm.

The event aims to explore the above questions through a dialogue between psychotherapists, academics and leading contemporary comedians. Comedians use the symbolic power of humour to express a range of popular, cultural and personal dilemmas for TV and theatre audiences today.

The event is part of a two year nation-wide research project called Media and the Inner World, run by Roehampton University and the University of East London and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The project is travelling around the UK holding symposia aimed at exploring how the media and popular culture impact on emotions and create therapeutic effects. This project is the first in the UK to bring together the two disciplines of media and therapy.

Project Directors Dr Caroline Bainbridge, Reader in the School of Arts at Roehampton University and Dr Candida Yates, Senior Lecturer in Psychosocial Studies at the University of East London said conversations between media professionals, therapists and academics  that have taken place at Media and the Inner World events were key to shedding light on the role that the media has to play in shaping our experience of emotion today.


“In Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious (1905), Freud suggests that comedy is often used as a way of communicating anxiety and managing hostility. As with dreams, jokes are deeply symbolic and we can use them to learn more about the unconscious and the forbidden wishes and fantasies, which shape and mediate human experience,” said Dr Yates.

“Like spontaneous slips of the tongue, these wishes find expression through jokes and humour in the course of our everyday lives. Our responses to those jokes can also tell something about the pleasures, longings and fears that influence who we are and the cultures in which we live.

“When we watch them perform, comedians such as Eddie Izzard, Victoria Wood, Michael Macintyre or Russell Brand allow audiences to experience a range of emotions from outrage to pleasure – thus providing a means of working through the many anxieties and frustrations that permeate contemporary culture. Alternatively, from the perspective of the comedian, what are the pleasures of making people laugh – and what makes people laugh today and what doesn’t and why?”


Tom Davis: Comedian

Tom started on the London circuit in the summer of 2005 and he also fronted his own BBC 6music show ‘The Big Tom and Conrad show.’ Tom performed at the Edinburgh fringe festival where he received very positive reviews. Tom is also an accomplished character comedian. In 2003 he duped the SKY ONE program ’Guilty Secrets of the 1980′s’ into believing he in fact was a northern loner by the name of Steve Matthews.  In this years ‘Big Brother Celebrity Hijack’ Leigh saw an opportunity to unleash Toms character Martin Phillips on the Big Brother contestants. With Leigh in the guise of his alter ego Keith Lemon. Tom played 12 year old Martin, a hyperactive awkward lad Keith was looking after for the day. This was no mean feet, considering Toms 6-7, 18 stone frame. Yet the contestants and the public along with some of the production team fell for it.  Since this elaborate scheme Tom has worked on a number of new characters, appearing in Russell Brands Comedy Live Presents with Leigh’s Craig David character.

Michelle De Swarte: Comedian

Having been based between New York and London for nearly a decade; 2008 saw Michelle’s debut as a TV presenter in the UK when she co-hosted Princess Production’s ‘The Fashion Show’ on ITV2. Her memorable appearance on BBC3’s ‘Best and Worst of 2008’ made the most of her brilliant off the cuff humorous style. Early 2009 saw her build on that success by hosting a pilot for the US version of the show for MTV. Her down to earth personality and fast, fun delivery has inspired her to try her hand at stand up comedy and she made her debut at the world famous Comix comedy club in New York in March 2009. Michelle has recently joined John Noel’s agency as new up-and-coming comedian. She had a very successful gig at the Monkey Business Club in Camden in January 2010 which was widely acclaimed by critics.

Professor Brett Kahr: Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist

Honorary Chair of Media and the Inner World Network

Professor Brett Kahr is Senior Clinical Research Fellow in Psychotherapy and Mental Health at the Centre for Child Mental Health, and holds an Honorary Visiting Professorship in the School of Arts at Roehampton University, attached to the “Media and the Inner World” network.

A media psychotherapist of longstanding, he has presented several television documentaries, and served as Resident Psychotherapist on BBC Radio 2, and Spokesperson for the BBC mental health campaign “Life 2 Live”.  He is delegate to the councils of both the British Psychoanalytic Council and to the Council for Psychoanalysis for Jungian Analysis, and teaches at the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships at the Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology. Brett is a successful author and has published several best-selling volumes including Sex and the Psyche with Penguin Books.

Dr. Iain MacRury: Associate Dean and Reader in Cultural Sociology

Iain’s main areas of interest are advertising and consumption. He is the author of Advertising (Routledge). More specifically his interests include: advertising and cultural change, critical approaches to advertising, humour in advertising, psychodynamic and psychosocial approaches to advertising, changing advertising institutions, “promotional culture”. In addition to his work at UEL, Iain lectures in Psychoanalytic Studies at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, whereby he also supervises PhD students. Iain has a longstanding interest in humour, comedy and psychoanalysis.

Dr. Estela Welldon: Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist

Dr Estela Welldon is an Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy at the Portman and Tavistock Clinic.  She is the founder and Elected Honorary President for Life of the International Association for Forensic Psychotherapy. She is the acclaimed author of Mother, Madonna, Whore a book, which had a major impact on the psychoanalytic understanding of female perversion (and has even influenced at least one film-maker – read about this here). You can access a review of this book here. In her more recent book Sadomasochism she has explored the unconscious dynamics within sadomasochistic relationships drawing on clinical and theoretical sources.


Posted in Media Coverage on August 4, 2012.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> <script>