Camille Bordas

The Material

Format
$28.00

A single momentous day transforms the lives of students and professors at a school for stand-up comedy in a novel that "elucidates the irreconcilability of learning and living, of performance and being" (Rachel Cusk)

Can comedy be taught? Someone, at some point, seemed to think so. The Chicago Stand-Up program has enrolled young comedians for nearly a decade.

Its teachers and students all know how bits work—in theory, at least. They know that there's a line between sharp and cruel, that sad becomes funny at the right angle, that the worst is the best, the truth is the worst, and any moment of your life that isn’t a punchline will either get you to a punchline or force you to be one.

They’re all afraid to be one.

Artie may be too handsome for standup, Olivia too reluctant to examine her own life, and Phil too afraid to cause harm. Kruger may be too vanilla to command his students’ respect, Ashbee too detached. And then we have Dorothy—the only woman on the program’s faculty—who though preparing to launch a comeback tour can’t tell if she’s too abiding, too ambitious, or too ambivalent.

Whether a visiting professor—the high-profile, controversy-steeped comedian, Manny Reinhardt—will do more to help or harm their cause remains to be seen. But he’s on his way. He’ll be arriving sooner than anyone thinks.

Riffing keenly across a diverse array of precision-cut perspectives, The Material examines life through the eyes of a reluctantly assembled ensemble, a band of outsiders bound together by the need to laugh, and the longing to make others laugh even harder.