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No funny business: Precarious work and emotional labour in stand-up comedy
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stockholm Business School.
Number of Authors: 22018 (English)In: Human Relations, ISSN 0018-7267, E-ISSN 1741-282X, Vol. 71, no 12, p. 1666-1686Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Freelance creative work is a labour of love where opportunities for self-expression are combined with exploitative working conditions. This article explores this dynamic by showing how a group of freelance creative labourers navigate employment while coping with the pressures associated with economic precarity. Drawing on semi-structured interviews, we argue that full-time stand-up comedians engage in 'pecuniary' forms of emotion management in an occupational field where social networks and professional relationships play a prominent role. First, comedians project an image of positivity to demonstrate a willingness to work for little or no pay in order to curry favour with comedy club promoters. Second, comedians suppress feelings of anxiety and frustration that arise from financial insecurity in order to keep their relationships with promoters on an even keel - even when the rate of pay and promptness of remuneration fall below acceptable standards. Our study thus has implications for other creative sectors in which precarity is the norm, since it suggests that emotional labour is a resource not only for engaging with customers and clients but also for engaging with multiple employers, negotiating pay and dealing with conditions of insecurity in freelance settings - often with unintended, paradoxical, results.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 71, no 12, p. 1666-1686
Keywords [en]
creative labour, emotional labour, freelance work, precarity, stand-up comedy
National Category
Economics and Business Other Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-162834DOI: 10.1177/0018726718758880ISI: 000449033000005OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-162834DiVA, id: diva2:1269448
Available from: 2018-12-10 Created: 2018-12-10 Last updated: 2018-12-10Bibliographically approved

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