chapter  1
The Politics of Postcolonial Laughter: The International Reception of the New Zealand Animated Comedy Series bro’Town: Michelle Keown
Pages 16

This chapter takes the New Zealand animated television comedy series bro’Town (written and performed by Polynesian comic actors) as a case study for considering the advantages and limitations of reception theory in analysing audience responses to so-called “ethnic” or “postcolonial” comedy. In particular, the chapter draws upon the distinction reception theorists such as John Guillory have made between “lay” and “professional” interpretations of “texts” (here taken to include media productions as well as literary works). Guillory has described professional “reading” as a “disciplinary” activity, a “kind of work”, governed by “conventions of interpretation”, that “stands back from the experience of pleasure in reading” and is often targeted towards the production of “a public and publishable ‘reading’”. Lay reading, on the other hand, is categorised as a largely solitary leisure activity performed primarily in pursuit of pleasure (Guillory 2000, 31 –32). As James Procter points out, however, the distinction between lay and professional reading can be less polarised than Guillory suggests: he discusses this dynamic in relation to book groups, which are “communal rather than solitary affairs”, potentially containing “combinations of both professional and lay readers” and “in certain ways” replicating “the habits of professional reading” (2009, 183). In this chapter I will analyse a range of “professional” and “lay” responses to bro’Town-the former from academics and journalists, and the latter from fans contributing to various Internet discussion forums-in order to suggest that while many bro’Town “lay” readers foreground the show’s appeal as entertainment, some of their responses involve a convergence of putatively separate reading practices associated with “lay” and “professional” constituencies.