Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date



Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s play Neighbors, which premiered at the Public Theater in 2010, explores the history of Black representation in the theater and, subsequently, the performance of Black identity in the US through its depiction of a complex and contradictory minstrelsy that cannot easily be classified as satirical or subversive. Generating what Jacobs-Jenkins has called “wrong laughter” through contradiction, ambiguity, and ambivalence, Neighbors engages the unstable space of the comic grotesque in order to open up pathways for something new to emerge. In this play, the figure of the clown – a grotesque outlaw who moves between, within, across, and beyond boundaries – becomes a key destabilizing figure as the grotesque body becomes a site for transformation through its contradictions, oozing inconsistency and excess, and allowing a potential space for regeneration and renewal through instability and failure when the stable and the rational have failed. In its embrace of clowning and the comic grotesque, Neighbors questions the stable notion of “community,” particularly in terms of racial and historical identity, and exposes the contradictions of closed constructions, creating a space beyond the boundaries of rational discourse that may begin to engage a more complex reality.


This article was originally published in Journal of Contemporary Drama in English, available at

Available for download on Tuesday, June 03, 2025