CES 285 Comedy in the United States • 5 Cr.

Class title change starting Summer 2019

Comedy as Resistance • 5 Cr.


Surveys the history of American humor. Topics may include the Down East, Old Southwest, and Literary Comedian genres of the 19th century and the Purple Cow and Columnists humorists of the 20th century. Students may also analyze contemporary forms such as cartoons and stand-up comedy and analyze how they have been used to cope with social-cultural inequities. Previously AMST 285.

Description starting Summer 2019

Explore how comedy, humor, and satire are used to address social problems and push back against dominant culture. Students will examine historic and contemporary comedic forms such as blackface minstrelsy, political cartoons, and stand-up comedies and analyze how they have been used to critique and disrupt social-cultural stereotypes and inequities. We will also investigate the boundaries, politics, and different distinctions around something being ?just a joke.? Satisfies either Social Science or Humanities credit.


After completing this class, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the histories, theories, and functions of laughter and humor in the U.S. 
  • Explore how race, politics, social issues, economics, gender, and culture inform humor and learn what comedy teaches us about the self and society 
  • Critically analyze how humor and comedy are used to critique systems of power and inequities 
  • Reflect on how humor functions in one's own life and how laughter is prompted by socially constructed understanding of differences