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This project contributes the comic counterfactual to the critical lexicon of rhetorical studies. Using a range of examples from political comedy, this paper offers six distinguishing features and several temporal functions of this concept. I argue that the comic counterfactual invites audiences to critically reflect upon the political, social, and performative consequences of historical events by bringing affective, sensory weight to alternative visions, moving unaccountable private interests into public culture, targeting the subtle determinisms that can easily creep into communication, and creating plausible ways to reworld the status quo. I discuss the limitations of the comic counterfactual in the political economy of media and offer several conclusions for rhetorical research and practice.

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