AMCULT 220 - American Humor
Section: 001
Term: WN 2009
Subject: American Culture (AMCULT)
Department: LSA American Culture
Credits:
4
Requirements & Distribution:
HU
Repeatability:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

This course explores the role of comedy in shaping and challenging racial, gender, and sexual identities from the early 20th century to the present. From blackface minstrelsy to the work of more recent stand-up comedians, the course will seek to answer some of the social questions posed by these performers. For example, does comedy more often reflect gender, ethnic, and racial stereotypes or challenge them? How do we account for the persistent emphasis upon racial and gender differences? Can comedy be “politically correct” and still be funny? How important is “in-group” laughter to comedy’s success and what should we make of the uncomfortable laughter of those not in the in-group? We will explore the work of comics from Bert Williams and Stepin Fetchit to Freddie Prinze, Sr., Margaret Cho and Chris Rock. We will investigate the work of these comics through the ideas of modern thinkers who have written on the cultural history of American humor and the social and personal aspects of jokes and comedy.

This course is not a survey of comedy in the U.S. and cannot cover the entire history of major comedians and genres of comedy. Neither does it deal significantly with literary humor. However, we will use Constance Rourke’s American Humor (1931), a core text in American Studies, as a model that links humor and comedy to the concept of identity, specifically, a sense of “American-ness.” We will try to answer the question, What makes comedy in the U.S. distinctly American? Can it be explained by the emphasis that comics and their audiences place upon cultural difference and diversity in modern American humor? How do we account for the recent popularity of relatively new comedic identities, such as “redneck”, “blue collar” and “lesbian” comedians/humorists? Throughout the semester, as we view and read this comic material, we will continue to ask ourselves, Is this funny? And if so, Why?

Assessment: Assignments include a 5-7-page midterm paper, two brief performance reviews, and a 5-7-page final research paper and Powerpoint portfolio. These assignments require the use of lecture/reading material and aim to improve critical thinking, reading and writing skills; analytical tools to historicize cultural influences; the ability to synthesize a broad range of historical, biographical and theoretical data; and to pursue research using popular, general audience and scholarly sources.

Crs Requirements: Attendance, timeliness, and participation in class discussions (30%). Requirements include one midterm examination (20%), two 3-5 page written reviews (15% each), and a final 5-7 page research paper and portfolio (20%). For the review, students must attend two events with a humorous theme: an assigned comedy event and a live lecture/performance of their choice. The latter must be by an author/performer living in the U.S. or cover themes related to U.S. culture.

Intended Audience: Freshmen and Sophomores

Class Format: 3 hpw lecture plus 1 hpw discussion sections led by a GSI

AMCULT 220 - American Humor
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 
29355
Closed
0
 
-
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM
002 (DIS)
P
29344
Closed
0
1Fr or So
-
F 10:00AM - 11:00AM
003 (DIS)
P
29345
Closed
0
2Fr or So
-
F 11:00AM - 12:00PM
004 (DIS)
P
29346
Closed
0
2Fr or So
-
Th 4:00PM - 5:00PM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.


Note:
At Shaman Drum Bookstore: 
On The Real Side 16.95  
American Humor Email bookstore for availability  
Born Standing Up 15.00
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