Incidental Assignments

In the first few weeks students will bring in examples of humor across media platforms that they find funny. These examples will be viewed / read / listened to and discussed in class. Students may also be required to bring in material and complete short writing assignments over the course of the semester. These contributions and short form exercises will count toward your participation grade.

Project Assignments (Complete 3 of 10)

Over the course of the semester students will complete THREE of the TEN assignments that are listed in the table below alongside each week’s unit of study. Students will choose their projects by the end of the fifth week. At least one of these pieces must be collaborative. All projects will be workshopped in class – the schedule for which we will determine once we begin.

Unit I: What Is Comedy?
1 Stations of the Fool – Laughter in History Each student should bring to class an example (image, text, video or audio link, etc.) of something they think is truly funny. We will be looking at these and discussing them in class. 
2 Laughing Now… Each student should bring to class an example (image, text, video or audio link, etc.) of something they think is truly funny. We will be looking at these and discussing them in class.
3 Doing Comedy… Each student should bring to class an example (image, text, video or audio link, etc.) of something they think is truly funny. We will be looking at these and discussing them in class.
Unit II: The Elements of Comedy
4 Jokes Write twenty jokes using several classic joke formulae. Over a succession of three classes we will workshop these jokes, rewriting them based on feedback you get from your peers.  
5 Writing Funny Write a 5–7 page short story, essay, column or comic strip in the style of the examples we read for class. Your writing could be historical, biographical, journalistic, fictional, topical or any combination thereof, but should embrace the comedic qualities of the cited literature for this week.  
6 Pantomime and Physical Comedy Reproduce as precisely as possible a virtuosic slapstick performance by an artist of your choosing. OR, create an original virtuosic slapstick routine. This routine will be developed on your own, rehearsed in class and filmed for your portfolio.
7 Anarchistic Comedy, Dada and other Nonsense Reproduce as precisely as possible a virtuosic routine of anarchistic comedy. OR, write and perform your own. This physical and/or linguistic routine will be developed in pairs, rehearsed in class and filmed for your portfolios.
8 Stand Up Comedy Write a 4–5 minute standup routine around a specific theme of your choosing. Perform this routine at an open mic somewhere on campus or in the city. Document your performance on video so you can review and critique your work. Final documentation should include a finished script, video of your performance, and double spaced two page reflection/assessment of the experience of performing, with notes on how you would change your routine for your next performance.
9 Concrete Comedy Create three original works of “concrete comedy.” These can be sculptural works, paintings or other art objects, or documented actions/performances/events. But each must be framed and documented accordance with the Robbins’s theory of concrete comedy. Each object should be accompanied by a single page description of the object with thoughts behind its conception.
10 “Real” Performance: The Case of Andy Kaufman Develop a comic persona and document a day in the life of this character as they interact with others in real world situations. You may plan your interactions, but those you interact with must not be cognizant of the ruse. Full documentation should include a single spaced 1–2 page biography of your character, several journal entries throughout the day of your “performance,” a video interview, and documentary style footage of your character “out in the world.”
11 Interventionists Comedy Conceive of a comic intervention in a real world scenario. Your intervention should serve to bring public attention to a socially, politically, or culturally complex cause of your choosing (i.e. social injustice, structural racism, economic disparity, global warming, political malfeasance, gender politics, etc.).

For this assignment, you should submit:

  • A 2 page prospectus explaining the problem you are addressing and presenting a rationale for your intervention, explaining how it will work and what you hope to achieve by it
  • Video documentation of the intervention itself 
  • A two page assessment of the success of the intervention written after the fact
12 Counterfactual Comedy Write and produce a 5 minute piece of counterfactual comedy in the style of one of the comics viewed for this week. Your subject should be topical in nature and should be two or more of the following: a set up, framing the your topic in a journalistic fashion; a cut-away to a correspondent reporting on the issue; an interview with either a distinguished faculty member or concerned citizen (these may be scripted and staged or “gonzo” style) and other elements we will come up with in class. All projects should end with a 2 page assessment of the project after it has been discussed and screened in the class.
12 (optional)


Note: This unit is optional and may be done in concert with or in place of Week 12’s unit on counterfactual comedy

Write and produce a 6–8 minute mockumentary on a subject of your choosing. Perhaps what separates the mockumentary from the counterfactual comedy is what separates the daily news from in-depth or long form journalism. Like long form journalism, your mockumentary should be a well-researched and detailed portrait of a person, object, idea or event. If it helps to parody a specific documentary, that would be fine. Mockumentary projects will be work-shopped in class, screened in the final class and should be followed up with a 2 page written assessment of the project.
13 The Podcast Create and edit a podcast on a topic of your choice, interviewing at least one guest (8 minutes total.) As an interviewer you may be “in-character” or “yourself.” Your interviewees should be real people. Interviews should be related to a specific subject and your interview should be crafted for comedic effect.

Portfolio and Presentation

For the last class, projects will be assembled into a portfolio (online or material, depending on the projects involved). During the last class finished works and portfolios will be presented to the class.