“Comedy, it seems, is never the gaiety of things: it is the groan made gay.” – Walter Kerr

“Comedy always comes second, late, after the fact,” as Walter Kerr suggests. This course is designed around analyzing what’s so funny and why is it that we laugh when we do. How is comedy characterized on the fictional page, the screen, and the stage? And what might the comic teach us about the self and culture(s), especially when we come to understand its patterns of transgression as confounding social norms through laughter? Tracking a history of comedy, we will traverse genres, periods, and cultures to reflect on various types of humor: satire, farce, slapstick, love, tragedy, parody, and screwball. Taking physical comedy as our central theme, this class investigates what happens to the body in the comic moment when it transforms into something physically superior or, dare I say, something physically inferior? Essentially, in this course, you will read for laughter.

Course will include novels, short stories, plays, graphic novels, films, television series, and live performances, such as: Shakespeare, Cervantes, Benjamin Franklin, Mrs. Fanny Trollope, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Alison Bechdel, television series like Veep or Modern Family, a local musical or play, and a drag queen performance and talk by Miss Shuga Cain.