Black Comedy in Contemporary Theater

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Miriam Chirico for Comparative Drama Conference
contact email: 

Call for Papers: Black Comedy in Contemporary Theater

Panel at the Comparative Drama Conference, Rollins College, Orlando, Florida: April 2-4, 2020


Deadline: October 31, 2019


Black comedy, as a genre, is under-theorized.  Black comedy received scholarly attention fifty years ago with the advent of such literary humorists as Kurt Vonnegut or Joseph Heller.  Interest has resurged in the twenty-first century in response to idiosyncratic cinematography of Quentin Tarantino or the Cohen Brothers, and in order to address the mordant satire of alternative media post-9/11. 

However, black comedy has yet to be fully explored in contemporary drama.  André Breton famously referred to black comedy as ‘the mortal enemy of sentimentality’ (1997: xix) in his 1940 collection, Anthologie de l’humour noir, indicating that its usefulness lies in its ability to examine and expose life’s cruelties from a candid, irreverent perspective.  The dynamic of the theater has the capacity to illustrate the symbolic violence inflicted on people through destructive relationships, flawed institutions or corrupt commercial media, and to expose how society willfully denies the existence of such suffering through the audience’s laughter.  It is time to consider how the theatrical stage can deploy black humor to amplify the darkness and cruelty of life.

This Call for Papers asks writers to consider any number of contemporary dramatists in their discussion of black comedy, such as (but not limited to!) John Guare, Arthur Kopit, Christopher Durang, Tracy Letts, Nicky Silver, and Paula Vogel.  Many playwrights embrace the ideological stance of the black humorist, but vary wildly in style and tone, and the panel hopes to represent this extensiveness.

Topics range from:

  • How black comedy evolved from yet differs from Theater of the Absurd
  • The effect of black comedy on audience reactions
  • Topics handled best or more frequently by black comedic authors
  • Limitations of the genre’s style or reception
  • Cultural, political, or social forces that elicit black comedy
  • Popularity or lack thereof of black comedic writers
  • Film and theater overlap in black comedy

Interested participants in “Black Comedy in Contemporary Theater” panel should send abstracts of approximately 250 words by October 31, 2019 to Miriam Chirico at  Three papers of 15-minuts duration will comprise this pre-organized panel at the Comparative Drama Conference in April.  All applicants will be notified of the status of their submissions by early November. 

All papers presented at the CDC 2020 are eligible to be considered for publication in the annual book series Text and Presentation, upon development into a full-length scholarly essay. For more information see the conference website: