Writing about comedy is a treacherous affair, and one that raises numerous intractable questions: What is comedy? What path has it carved out for itself over the past century? And how do we write about it? This advanced writing course will survey the story of American comedy in all its multifarious formats—the sitcom, the film comedy, the stand-up act, the variety show— while also serving as a workshop for cultural criticism that goes deeper than the recap. Utilizing a combination of reading, viewing, live performances, and workshopping, this course will sharpen students’ skills as writers by exposing them to the wide range of American comedy from Charlie Chaplin to “Key & Peele,” with units on African-American comedy, women in comedy, political comedy, and self-aware comedy, among others. In this course, we will wrestle with the complexities of writing about comedy, including, but not limited to, the question of whether being funny about what’s funny is a faux pas or a necessity. Writing assignments will offer students the opportunity to learn about the craft of cultural criticism by attending a stand-up show and writing a review, writing about a work of comedy that makes you uncomfortable, and other prompts. Readings will include essays by Clive James, Emily Nussbaum, James Agee, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Wesley Morris, Roxane Gay, and others.
Advanced Writing Courses (WRTNG-UG)