English | Projects in Reading and Writing
W170 | 1823 | Mica Hilson


Topic:  LAUGHING ON THE OUTSIDE

Contemporary humor has tended to cast the status of the "outsider" in
a flattering light.  Hollywood comedies, from STRIPES to AMERICAN
BEAUTY, invite the viewer to identify with the struggles of a
sarcastic nonconformist or a "ragtag band of misfits" against the "in
crowd" or the "system."  Late night television comedy series like THE
DAILY SHOW and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE have long flaunted their "Not Ready
for Prime Time" outsider status.  And many stand-up comics freely
admit that they began performing because they "always felt like an
outsider."  But are all these outsiders created equally?  Looking
first at comic films that represent an outsider hero, then at comedy
produced by self-proclaimed outsiders, we will explore the differences
between two classes of "outsiders":  individuals who choose a
lifestyle on the fringes of society and members of marginalized
groups.  The class will also investigate the reception of comedies and
comedians to ask in what contexts "outsiders" might become "insiders."
Finally, we will consider how humor can be utilized to critically
analyze our country's cultural myths of the outsider.  There will be
several in-class and out-of-class screenings, including performances
by Margaret Cho, Ellen Degeneres, and Roseanne Barr, clips from "THE
SIMPSONS" and THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN, and the films GHOST
WORLD, THE GOOD GIRL, REVENGE OF THE NERDS, BRING IT ON, and POISON.