A comedian at the Oscars
Is the saddest man of all.
Your movies may make millions,
But your name they'll never call.
Comedian Will Ferrell sang these lyrics at the 79th Annual Academy Awards. Ferrell is correct: film comedies bring in millions of dollars for Hollywood, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rarely acknowledges such achievements. Also ironic, the AMPAS hires comedians like Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal, Ellen DeGeneres, Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, and Steve Martin to host its televised gala, but the organization seemingly has little regard for the comics and their craft after the gig is up.
Unlike the Academy, this course will take film comedy seriously. American Film Comedy will introduce students to canonical films of the genre (i.e., critically acclaimed and historically influential works). It will also consider the genre’s formal features, characterization, and narrative structure(s). It will look at what American film comedies came to mean to certain audiences at certain times. And finally, the course will examine the ways American film comedy represents gender, class, race, and sexuality. Classes will consist of lectures, film screenings, and discussion.
Kelli Marshall, Fall 2016
American stand-up comedy is experiencing yet another boom, following the rise of the chitlin’ circuit and Borscht Belt performers of the 1930s and 1940s, the “sick” or “cerebral” comedians of the 1960s, and the comedy-club set of the 1980s. As a result, the craft has been the subject of several recent cinematic, televised, and streaming documentaries.
This course familiarizes students with American television comedy from 1990-present, focusing specifically on sitcom, satire, and sketch (some subgenres will necessarily overlap). We will consider the history of each comedy type as well as its cultural significance then and now. Finally, we will explore the ways American TV comedy represents race, gender, age, religion, politics, sexuality, and even the industry itself. Classes will consist of lectures, screenings, and discussion.
This course offers students a broad overview of the mass media (print, film, video, recorded music, radio, television, and the internet) with a particular focus on how these media impact our everyday lives. Students will develop critical frameworks for understanding how power operates across the media spheres of production, circulation, representation and reception. Attention is placed on how the social categories of race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age and nationality inform each of these media spheres. The course also considers how recent developments in digital technologies, media convergence and globalization have transformed our media culture.