Is Crossing Boundaries Always Liberating?
This article proposes transgression as a helpful concept to analyse the cultural practice of boundary crossing, focussing on the field of comedy. Taking the work of Dutch comedian Hans Teeuwen as a case study, I examine the contested politics of transgressive comedy and question the strong-hold belief that transgression is necessarily liberating. By comparing Teeuwen’s early comedy to his recent work, I demonstrate that the political implications of transgression largely depend on context. I argue that Teeuwen’s work has become more politicised and that its meaning has shifted from a postmodern play with limits to a manifestation of conservative counterculture. Theories by Georges Bataille and Michel Foucault help me to theorise transgression as an act of crossing and drawing the limit and to criticise the carnivalesque model of humour inspired by the work of Mikhail Bakhtin. Keywords: humour, comedy, transgression, carnival, Hans Teeuwen, Dutch cabaret