Beck’s caught the bug for higher education as she earned her BA in English and Psychology at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. After earning insufficient pocket change while performing stand-up comedy and improv professionally, she went on to earn an MA in Women’s Studies from OhioState University and a Ph.D. in American Studies from University of Maryland, College Park. Her research specializations are studies in humor and performance with a focus on stand-up comedy; social justice and resistance movements; media representations; visual and popular culture; and American subcultures, specifically survivalists and preppers or those preparing for large-scale disasters.

Interests

  • Women’s history
  • Humor and laughter
  • Social identities
  • Studies of visual and popular culture
  • Identity and difference
  • Theater and performance
  • Preppers and post-apocalyptic cultural texts
  • Pedagogical studies

Current Research

  • All Atwitter: Comedy in the New Media Age

    Monograph in progress.

    This book project examines the effects of social media on the popular cultural form of stand-up comedy specifically and the comedy industry more generally. The ability to reach a wide viewing audience or readership, formerly the province of a select, carefully chosen few, has become available to anyone with Internet access and a yen for the creative. At the least, these social media sites provide manifold possibilities for comics to generate interest and allegiance from consumers. Exchanges between comics and fans on social media sites can feel like a refreshing collapse of the traditional boundaries maintained between performers and their public. Indeed, fans are pushing back against humor they find offensive and stoking public discourses about what and whom is fair game for joking. In turn, comics are also teaching fans preferred codes of conduct in these virtual spaces. My research questions include: How are comics harnessing emergent social media tools and to what effects? Do online platforms alter the exchange and consumption of humor and in what ways (if any) are these networking tools changing the substance, style, or means of humor production? What discourses are out there about what social media is doing to comedy and vice versa? To answer these questions, I employ a dual-methods qualitative approach incorporating critical discourse analyses and ethnography. Analyzing themes emerging in popular discourses via primary sources like newspaper and magazine articles, online publications, blogs, reader comments, and performances offers a macro-oriented understanding of SM and comedy; whereas, interviews conducted with industry executives, comedy club owners, comics, actors/performers, comic writers, savvy SM users, and digital studies scholars illumine individual perspectives and experiences in the entertainment industry. The two methods make for a happy marriage that captures data at the macro and micro levels of interaction. In this way, I seek to capture the ways social media is reshaping the comedy industry in the 21st century and the effects this has on how comedy is produced, exchanged, and consumed.

  • Prepper Nation: Adapting to Potential Futures

    Co-authored with Chad Huddleston. Monograph in progress.

    This book explains and analyzes preppers and the growing and evolving prepper movement in the United States. While the term prepper is relatively new (circa mid-1990s), most of the attitudes and behaviors behind it are not new. Historians document preparing for the ‘end times’ early on as being associated with millennial prophecies of 18th century American religious movements. Preparedness strategies and tactics continued to inform life in the 20th century and still do, including the Cold War civil defense movements that attempted to prepare the U.S. for nuclear attack or civic preparedness organizations like the Civilian Emergency Response Teams organized by FEMA. Even so, while prepping seems to have some continuity with its antecedents, it seems to be a new expression of these attitudes and behaviors evolving to answer to some of the multifaceted issues that face us today: social, economic, political, and environmental. Drawing from myriad sources, including many interviews with preppers, we explore why preppers prep, how preppers anticipate and confront these issues, the strategies they employ, and the philosophies and values informing their attitudes and behaviors. That we aim to interrogate the misunderstood and oft-misrepresented group of people calling themselves preppers makes this a unique enterprise; that we intend to do so from many different angles distinguishes this project from earlier scholarship on survivalists, the radical forebears of preppers.