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Matthew McMahan is the assistant professor of comedic studies in the Department of Performing Arts and the BFA in Comedic Arts. The author of Border-Crossing and Comedy at the Théâtre Italien, 1716-1723 (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew has also published research on vaudeville, clowning, jazz, and French farce in Theatre Survey, Nineteenth Century Theatre & Film, Theatre History Studies, The Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, The New England Theatre JournalThe Texas Theatre Journal, and HowlRound. His article on two Parisian clowns, Foottit and Chocolat, was awarded an honorable mention for the Robert A. Schanke Research Award at the Mid-America Theatre Conference.

He is currently working on two book projects: a documentary history of clown acts dating back to the eighteenth century entitled Clowns and Clowning in the Circus and Allied Arts (under contract with Routledge) and a monograph called Funny Moves: Migration and Comedy in the Twenty-First Century. For the last four years, Matthew has spearheaded the comedy studies working group at the American Society for Theatre Research. In the Fall of 2023, alongside a team of comedy scholars from institutions across the U.S., he is convening the Comedy and Embodiment Symposium at MIT as well as editing a special issue of Theatre Topics on the same theme. 

Matthew is a professional dramaturg, who specializes in adaptation and new works. He has worked for such theatre companies as the San Diego Repertory Theatre, the Atlantic Theatre Company, the Indiana Repertory Theatre, the Wooster Group, Chorus pro Musica, and the Boston-based movement company Imaginary Beasts. Additionally, he is an active improv performer and coach. He has performed at Union Comedy, ImprovBoston, the Del Close Marathon in New York, the We the People Improv Festival in Philadelphia, the Steel Stacks Improv Festival, the Union Comedy Festival in Somerville, and the Providence Improv Fest. Matthew leads numerous workshops in applied improvisation at places like Harvard University, Tufts University, Brandeis University, and the American Association for Law Librarians.



B.A., Olivet Nazarene University
M.F.A., State University of New York, Stony Brook
Ph.D., Tufts University

Areas of Expertise

  • Theater


Border-Crossing and Comedy at the Théâtre Italien, 1716-1723


“Send in the Clowness: The Problematic Origins of Female Circus Clowns.” Theatre Survey 64, no. 1 (2023).


“To Catch a Joke Thief, or Copyrighting Vaudeville Acts in the New York Clipper Registry.” Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film 49, no. 1 (2021).


“Projections of Race at the Nouveau Cirque: The Clown Acts of Foottit and Chocolat.”


“New Plays in New Tongues: Bilingualism and Immigration at the New Italian Theatre in France.” Theatre History Studies 36 (2017): 128–147.


“Immigrants on Stage: The New Italian Theatre in Paris and Cross-Cultural Rapport.” In Hats Off, Gentlemen!: Changing Arts of Communication in the Eighteenth Century/Arts de communiquer au XVIIIe siècle. Edited by Penelope J. Corfield and Leonie Hannan.


“‘Let me see you dance’: Ada ‘Bricktop’ Smith, the Charleston, and Racial Commodification in Interwar France.” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 29, no. 2 (Spring 2015): 43–61.


“‘We are your masters’: Encroachment of the Other in Marivaux.” New England Theatre Journal 24 (2013): 79–93.


“Charles Mee, Bob Rauschenberg, and the Phenomenological Spirit.” The Texas Theatre Journal 10 (2014): 53–69.


“Elizabeth LeCompte in Rehearsal: An Intern’s Perspective.” Praxis: The Journal for Theatre, Performance and Criticism 1, no. 1 (2013): 1–9.


Creative Works

Resident Cast Member, Union Comedy


Resident Cast Member, ImprovBoston