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The hidden tastemakers: comedy scouts as cultural brokers at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Friedman, Sam (2014) The hidden tastemakers: comedy scouts as cultural brokers at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Poetics, 44. pp. 22-41. ISSN 0304-422X

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.poetic.2014.04.002


Responsible for selecting which new artists are brought to the public attention, talent scouts carry considerable influence in framing performing arts fields. Yet their practices are hidden from public view, and how and why they select fledgling producers remains mostly unexplored in cultural sociology. This article aims to demystify the work of such gatekeepers by examining temporary comedy scouts operating at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The Fringe is the world's biggest arts festival and a central tradefair for the British comedy field. Drawing on ethnographic observation and interviews with nine comedy scouts, I examine the positions they occupy in the comedy field and, in turn, how this positioning affects which comedians they propel. I then interrogate the brokerage enacted by scouts. Centrally, I argue that, while some broker between artists and management, all scouts are implicated in mediating between artists and audiences. In particular, they act to intensify comedy taste boundaries—making judgments based on assumptions about imagined audiences and directing more legitimate comedians to privileged audiences and vice versa. In this way, scouts act as hidden tastemakers, intensifying the scarcity of certain tastes and strengthening the ability of privileged audiences to use comedy in the claiming of cultural distinction.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 Elsevier B.V.
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2014 13:44
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 01:54

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