The purpose of comedy is to tell an entertaining story rather than a reliable one. However, it is still essential that the narration retains credibility so that the audience may feel emotional investment, as the story loses the essential sense of there being something to lose otherwise. Using various rhetorical tactics allows achieving a level of both belief and awe in listeners, as may be seen in Ali Siddiq’s “Prison Riot” standup.
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Siddiq augments his jail-time story by appealing to the audience’s existing racial stereotypes, as well as their ignorance of prison life, subtly subverting the logic of the recounted situation. The dominant mode of persuasion in “Prison Riot” is pathos since the mainly un-incarcerated audience should feel equally confused by the situation’s introduction as the newly imprisoned Siddiq. Clear parallels between prison’s knife shopping and the average American Macy’s further allow the listeners to immerse into the occurring events realistically.
Furthermore, the audience believes Siddiq’s skit because he identifies himself as a somewhat certified speaker, having been once to prison and playing into the stereotypes regarding black crime. However, Siddiq initially positions himself as unfamiliar with the circumstances, similarly to the audience, thus at the same time intertwining credibility with inexperience. Therefore, he retains both authority and relatability in a jail-set scene where there should seemingly be no positive characters.
The visual of a prisoner disoriented by his new surroundings, yet doing his best to fit in and being hurt in one of the most counter-factual ways by a Mexican with no boots attracts notice. Both pathos and ethos allow Siddiq to create a story that the audience cannot help but believe. Thus, these actions make the actor easy to sympathize with, which is an essential skill for any public speaker and an indispensable one for comedic actors.