Stephen Kercher: History professor writes analysis on 60s comedians

Historians in the News

Within the dark hallways of the Clow faculty building is the office of Dr. Stephen Kercher. Amid the various history books and other assorted papers piled up on Kercher’s desk, you might find a copy of Kercher’s new book, “Revel With A Cause: Liberal Satire in Post-War America.” The book is Kercher’s analysis of the period from 1945-1965, when political satirists were at their most venerated.

“I’ve always been compelled by how artists use humor and comedy to criticize social patterns and issues of the day such as the bomb, race and the military,” he said.

Kercher, who received a doctorate from the University of Indiana, is an associate professor in the history department at UW-Oshkosh. He teaches a variety of 20th century history courses dealing with World War II and the 1960s.

Kercher believed that a book needed to be written on the satire of the post war period because he felt comics like Lenny Bruce, and others of the era, have not been taken seriously as writers and weren’t taken as seriously as the news media at the time.

“People like Lenny Bruce then, or Jon Stewart today, take the news stories of the day and put a humorous twist on them, but there’s still a serious moral purpose behind it,” Kercher said.

The book took shape in 1995, when Kercher was a grad student at the University of Indiana. The book began as Kercher’s dissertation, and he continued to edit it until two years ago, when he began looking for a publisher.

“I was blissfully naïve to think that I could pitch the book idea to publishers and someone would publish it. I know now that it usually doesn’t happen that way. Luckily, I got immediate interest from a few publishers, and I decided on University of Chicago Press,” Kercher said.

While working on the book, Kercher got the opportunity to interview famous comedy writers and satirists. He interviewed Gloria Steinem who, prior to becoming a feminist writer, worked with comedic material; Buck Henry, a famous satirist; Calvin Trillin of the New Yorker; and Del Close, the guru of American improv, who coached at Second City in Chicago. ...

comments powered by Disqus