Hannah Ballou | The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Hannah Ballou

Project Title

hoo:ha: Illuminating and exploiting a dissonance between funniness and sexiness with the female comic body in performance


Dr. Stephen Farrier and Dr. Experience Bryon


BA, Theatre and Film, University of Kansas

Professional Training Program: Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre

MA (Distinction), Advanced Theatre Practice (Performance), The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama


I investigate the juxtaposition of funniness and sexiness in feminist comic performance using a PaR methodology. I argue that funniness and sexiness can be configured not only as oppositional or mutually exclusive, but also as dissonant and mutually provocative. My aims are threefold. Understanding this dissonance between funniness and sexiness as a theoretical concept contributes substantial new insight to humour theory, challenging heteronormative and patriarchal configurations of the comic vis-à-vis the erotic.  Nuance is added to various conceptions of the comic body (including Rowe’s unruly woman, Bergson’s automaton, Critchley’s gap, and Bakhtin’s carnivalesque body) by the proposal and consideration of a sexy-comic feminist intersubject.  Secondly, the dissonance is investigated and applied as a feminist comic strategy. The praxis demonstrates how performers can exploit the dissonance across a range of genres (e.g. live art, stand-up comedy, and neo-burlesque) to offer a feminist critique on cultural constructions of funniness and sexiness.  This strategy is devised and activated in the praxis of hoo:ha, a series of three performances. Thirdly, the praxis articulates new liquid knowledge by manifesting a dissonant concurrence of funniness and sexiness, amusement and seduction, or laughter and desire in the experience of the performer and spectators, and rendering explicit the complex tacit knowledge involved.


I am a comedian and performance artist trained at the Dell’Arte School in California.  I have taught at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London; the University of Kent; and Arts Educational Schools, London.  I have performed at the Camden People’s Theatre, Spill Festival, Duckie, Leicester Square Theatre, Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, Kommedia, and New York’s Slipper Room.  Conference presentations include the International Society of Humour Studies (Krakow) and Performing Gender (Belfast).  I have published articles and reviews in Comedy Studies and McSweeney’s and have curated and given the keynote at the London Comedy Forum’s feminist comedy symposium.  I was granted a research bursary by Central.


2016 Performer and writer, goo:ga, Camden People’s Theatre, London, and Brighton Fringe

2015 Performer and writer, hoo:ha, Calm Down Dear, Camden People’s Theatre, London

2014-Present Deviser, The Marina Abramopug Project http://marinaabramopug.tumblr.com/

2014 Actor, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN, Spill Festival

2008-12 Cabaret artist, Lambchop Magoo, various cabaret venues, London, New York, Berlin, Edinburgh

Key Publications

2013 ‘Pretty funny: Manifesting a Normatively Sexy Female Comic Body’, Comedy Studies, 4:2, pp. 179-86.

2015 ‘Measures we’re taking to offset the patriarchal footprint of our wedding’, Short essay for Timothy McSweeney’s, 5 June ˂http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/measures-were-taking-to-offset-the-patriarchal-footprint-of-our-wedding˃ 

Conference Presentations

2013 ‘Lady and The Tramp: Staging Dissonance in the Female Comic Body’, Contemporary Gendered Performance and Practice, Queen’s University, Belfast

2012 'Suspended Dissonance of the Deadpan Comic Nude', Humorous Intent Symposium, Mostyn Gallery, Wales

2012 'Flora and Fanny: Staging Dissonance with the Female Comic Body', International Society of Humour Studies Conference, Jagiellonian University, Krakow

Teaching Areas/Expertise


Identity and Performance

Feminist Performance


Commedia Dell'Arte

Devising Solo Performance

Ensemble Theatre

Lecoq Technique


Physical Theatre