TITLE: 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-ups 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 outsider heroes, then at stand-up 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 and films such as Animal House, Police Academy,Bringing Down the House, and Hollywood Shuffle.