“Tragedy is when I cut my finger, Comedy is when I fall in an open sewer and die.”-Mel Brooks
The question I am addressing for my sequence of instruction is, “what is funny?” Other questions include: Why do we laugh? Why do we cry? What’s the difference? With these questions, I am hoping to challenge my students into thinking of life and its relation to art outside the prescribed list of serious texts used all too frequently in the classroom (ie. To Kill A Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, A Farewell to Arms, etc.). This curriculum would leave my students with insight into the origins of comedy, why its important, its various forms, devices and applications (ie. Satire, Slapstick, Political/Social Commentary, respectively).
The texts I would include come from a broad range of media (plays, novels, pamphlets, short stories, film, television, etc.), of course starting with more historical/traditional texts:
Lysistrata by Aristophanes
As You Like It by Shakespeare
A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (film)
Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (film)
A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (graphic novel)
Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech
(this list is far from complete and may change drastically within the next week or so. Also, if anyone has anymore suggestions for this list, please let me know. I’m hoping to make it as diverse as possible)
I would have students pick TV shows or sketch comedy shows that we could play for the class, maybe find some stand-up comedy (it may be hard to find any stand-up without offensive language). Assignments would include a mix creative writing exercises–writing comedy sketches and performing them either live or through the use of digital video– and analytical essays. The main focus would be on class discussions.
Of course, it won’t be all fun and games. With this question, I hope to show my students why comedy should be taken seriously and explore why it isn’t.