Comedy, Seriously? Yes, Seriously.
Baratunde Thurston, photo by Mindy Tucker
Everyone loves a good ol’ laugh, and this year’s annual humanities theme at Colby, “Comedy, Seriously,” is all about ha-has. Colby’s faculty and students are going to lectures, performances, and exhibits all year to learn why people slipping on banana peels and LOL cats are so damn funny.
Really? What makes hilarity worthy of academic consideration?
“Comedy is very serious in a lot of ways,” said Assistant Professor of Philosophy Lydia Moland, who worked with the new Colby Arts and Humanities Center to organize the series. “The theory of comedy is very difficult. Trying to figure out what makes [jokes] funny and why is actually pretty hard. And, obviously, a lot of things that we laugh at aren’t funny. There are racial jokes, there are ethnic jokes, there are sexist jokes. I think we can learn a lot about the serious things in our society by talking about comedy.”
With the presidential election underway, the media is buzzing with satire. “Comedy has become the way so many people get their news about politics,” said Moland.
The series includes a keynote talk by comedian and The Onion’s former director of digital Baratunde Thurston about why comedy is so threatening to politicians in repressed cultures. Paula Poundstone, Monty Python’s Spamalot stage show, and the Capitol Steps are also coming to town.
Comedy is universal, but different cultures find different things hilarious. Classes for those who want to sample from a buffet of funny goodness include Comedy Across Cultures, with Professor of Russian Julie de Sherbinin, and The Politics of Satire and Humor in Modern China, with Professor of East Asian Studies Hong Zhang.
Outside the classroom, clubs and venues such as the Colby Improv and the Pugh Center are tickling funny bones. Check the Comedy, Seriously website for events, courses, and news. And get your dose of jokes and sarcasm from the student publication the Colby Libel.
Colby students “are definitely very funny,” said Moland. “In my class, my students make me laugh a lot. Usually intentionally, I think.”