CP 349 'THE CINEMA':
CONTEMPORARY COMEDY IN THEORY



CONTACT INFO

Instructor: Deron Williams
Contact: dwill1@siu.edu
Office: MCMA 0012a
Office Hours: By Appointment

SECTION 201

Course Dates: 08/22 - 10/12
Class Meeting Time: MW 7:00 - 10:00p
Classroom: Lawson 131

SECTION 202

Course Dates: 08/23 - 10/13
Class Meeting Time: TR 3:00 - 5:50p
Classroom: T Lawson 101, R Neckers 240

SECTION 203

Course Dates: 10/17 - 12/06
Class Meeting Time: MW 7:00 - 10:00p
Classroom: Lawson 141

SECTION 204

Course Dates: 10/18 - 12/07
Class Meeting Time: TR 3:00 - 5:50p
Classroom: T Lawson 101, R Neckers 240

DESCRIPTION

Everybody has a sense of humor (well, almost everybody), but few people take the time to examine and understand it. During this class, we will survey aesthetic, theoretical, philosphical and social aspects of comedic media. Through this survey, students will be introduced to many different ways in which artists, writers, and academics theorize comedy as it exists in contemporary popular culture. Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to demonstrate an expanded vocabulary for talking about the nuances of comedic media in its various forms. By developing this new vocabulary, students will be better equipped to understand their immediate media surroundings.

COURSE STRUCTURE

This course is designed as an eight-week, intensive survey of cinema, media, and cultural studies through the lens of contemporary comedy. To that end, each class will be devoted to a specific lecture topic and numerous related screenings that students may or may not be familiar with. Assignments are designed to develop students' ability to directly apply in-class material and critically engage popular culture in the form of Film, Television, and Popular Performing Arts.





GRADING CRITERIA

Comedy Journals - 30pts
Midterm Quiz - 15pts
Final Quiz - 35pts
Attendance & Weekly Quizzes - 20pts

[ALL ASSIGNMENTS] = 100pts

[A: 90-100 B: 80-89 C: 70-79 D: 60-69 F: <60]

Please note that late assignments will not be accepted except in the case of provable major illness. There are simply too many students to indivdually manage turn-in times. Each due date is well-noted below in the weekly schedule.

ASSIGNMENTS

COMEDY JOURNALS - Throughout our eight weeks you will be expected to write SIX one page critical synopsis papers of comedic works that are not shown in class. These papers can be written about any works (comedic or not) that you are personally interested in, whether they are TV shows, Films, Photos, Radio Programs, etc., but must apply course content in the analysis.

Each paper is worth 5pts; a full 30pts will be given to students who complete all assignments with carefully-written papers that display a fully-developed application of in-class material. These papers will be due at the beginning of the second class period of weeks 2 - 7, and must be typed.

Basic guidelines are available here: Journal Assignment Guidelines

MIDTERM QUIZ + FINAL QUIZ - The quizzes will be made up of short answer questions related to in-class material and readings, as well as written responses to Film Clips that will be shown during the quiz.

WEEKLY ATTENDANCE QUIZZES - These quizzes will be loosely based on the material previously presented, and will focus on critical and creative approaches to understanding the films presented in class. These quizzes will be used to keep attendance, and will be given after each class period's screening. It is expected that students attend each in-class screening and remain for the quiz.



CLASS SCHEDULE



OCT 17 - 20.
DEFINING THE COMEDIC


Topic
The tragic, the dramatic, the comedic; Pathos
Lecture Notes

Screening
Arrested Development (Mitchell Hurwitz, 2003-2006)
American Movie (Chris Smith, 1999)


Topic
Improvisation and Authenticity. 'Truth' in Comedy. 'The Game'. Play Theory and Socialization.
Lecture Notes

Screening
Home Movies (Bouchard + Small 1999-2004)
Mr. Show (Odenkirk and Cross, 1995-1998)
Step Brothers (Adam McKay, 2008)

Reading
Selections from Truth In Comedy by Close, Halpern, and Johnson. [PDF HERE]
Wikipedia: Socialization




OCT 24 - 27.
SOCIAL PURPOSES OF THE COMEDIC I


Topic
The Id, Ego, Superego. The Cultural Superego and The Comedic Ego. Psychopathology and the Comedic
Lecture Notes

Screening
Warren The Ape (Baker, Chinoy, Milano, 2010)
American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999)

Reading
Simple English Wiki: Id, Ego, Superego
Mostly awkward, but useful video: Basic Pyschoanalytic Theory


Topic
Why we laugh (some theories).
Lecture Notes

Screening
Family Guy (Seth McFarlane 1999-) A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2009)
Bigger and Blackerer (David Cross, 2010)
Hilarious (Louis CK, 2010)

Reading
Selections from Jokes and Their Relation To The Unconscious by Sigmund Freud. [PDF Here]
Selections from Laughter: An Essay On The Meaning of The Comic by Henri Bergson. [PDF Here]

JOURNAL 1 DUE: Journal Assignment Guidelines




OCT 31 - NOV 3.
SOCIAL PURPOSES OF THE COMEDIC II


Topic
Regeneration and Revolution; The abject and the carnivalesque

Lecture Notes

An Example of the Carnivalesque: Jack White Collaborates with ICP

Screening
Audio selections from Louis CK: Chewed Up (2008)

South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (Trey Parker, Matt Stone, 1999)


Topic
Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft: Community and Civil Society; Love, Family, and the need to belong.
Lecture Notes

Screening
The Simpsons (Groening, Brooks, Simon 1989 - present)
Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July, 2005)

JOURNAL 2 DUE




NOV 7 - NOV 10.
SOCIAL PURPOSES OF THE COMEDIC III


Topic
Existentialism and Human Emotions. Making meaning of life and death.
Lecture Notes

Screening
George Carlin: It's Bad For Ya (2008)
The Big Lebowski (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2002)

Reading
Our New Sense Of The Comic, from THE MEANINGS OF COMEDY by Wylie Sypher. [PDF Here]


Topic
Absurdism, Surrealism, and the loss of meaning (?)
Lecture Notes

Screening
Selections from Seinfeld (1990 - 1998)
The Boy In The Air (Lyn Elliot, 2005)
Mild People In Aggressive T Shirts (Lyn Elliot, 2007)
Sombra Dolorosa (Guy Maddin, 2004)
Rubber (Quentin Dupieux, 2011)

Reading
from THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS by Albert Camus. [PDF HERE]

JOURNAL 3 DUE




NOV 14 -17.
USING COMEDY: PARODY + SATIRE


MIDTERM QUIZ
Come Prepared With #2 Pencil


Topic
Parody and Satire. Iconoclasm and Jesting
Lecture Notes

Screening
The Comedy Central Roast of Larry The Cable Guy (2009)
Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents Dinner (2006)
Office Space (Mike Judge, 1999)

Reading

"Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity Is Finally Over" from THE ONION. [LINK HERE]
ON BULLSHIT by Harry G Frankfurt. [PDF HERE]

JOURNAL 4 DUE




NOV 21 - 24.
USING COMEDY: PLAY and PERFORMANCE


Topic
Postmodern Identity. Alterity and Liminality. Goofing off, for serious.
Lecture Notes

Screening
Maria Bamford in The Comedians of Comedy: Live at the El Rey (2006)
Da Ali G Show (Sacha Baron-Cohen, 2003-2004)
Abel Raises Cain (Jenny Abel, 2005)

Reading
Notes On Camp by Susan Sontag. [PDF HERE]
Selections from Postmodern Identities in Postmodernism by Glenn Ward. [PDF HERE]

JOURNAL 5 DUE


NO CLASS 11/23 & 11/24: THANKSGIVING BREAK




NOV 28 - DEC 1.
USING COMEDY: SOCIAL CRITIQUE


Topic
Critiquing Homophobia. Homosociality and Gallows Humor.
Lecture Notes

Screening
Dr. Strangelove (or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb) (Kubrick 1964)
Made (Jon Favreau, 2001)

Reading
From Buddies To Lovers by Robin Wood in Hollywood From Vietnam to Regan and Beyond
[PDF Here]


Topic
Racism and American Popular Culture

Screening
Richard Pryor: Live On The Sunset Strip (1982)
Chappelle's Show (Dave Chappelle, 2003-2006)
Kill The Messenger (Chris Rock, 2008)
For What It's Worth (Dave Chappelle, 2005)

JOURNAL 6 DUE




DEC 5 - 8. FINAL


Screening TBD


FINAL QUIZ
Come prepared with #2 Pencil.




BUILDING EMERGENCY RESPONSE PROTOCOLS

University's Emergency Procedure Clause: Southern Illinois University Carbondale is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for study and work. Because some health and safety circumstances are beyond our control, we ask that you become familiar with the SIUC Emergency Response Plan and Building Emergency Response Team (BERT) program. Emergency response information is available on posters in buildings on campus, available on BERT's website at www.bert.siu.edu, Department of Public Safety's website www.dps.siu.edu (disaster drop down) and in the Emergency Response Guideline pamphlet. Know how to respond to each type of emergency.

Instructors will provide guidance and direction to students in the classroom in the event of an emergency affecting your location. It is important that you follow these instructions and stay with your instructor during an evacuation or sheltering emergency. The Building Emergency Response Team will provide assistance to your instructor in evacuating the building or sheltering within the facility.

Disabled Students: Instructors and students in the class will work together as a team to assist disabled students out of the building safely. Disabled students will stay with the instructor and communicate with the instructor what is the safest way to assist them.

Tornado: During the spring semester we have a Storm Drill. Pick up your belongings and your instructor will lead you to a safe area of the basement. No one will be allowed to stay upstairs. Stay away from windows. The drill should not last more than 10 minutes. You must stay with your instructor so he/she can take roll calls. Students need to be quiet in the basement as the BERT members are listening to emergency instructions on handheld radios and cannot hear well in the basement.

Fire: During the fall semester we have a Fire Drill. Pick up your belongings and your instructor will lead you to either the North or South parking lot depending on what part of the building your class is in. You must stay with your instructor so he/she can take roll calls. As soon as the building is all clear, you will be allowed to return to class. These drills are to train instructors and the Building Emergency Response Team to get everyone to a safe place during an emergency.

Bomb Threat: If someone calls in a bomb threat, class will be suspended and students will be asked to pick up their belongings, evacuate the building and leave the premises. Do not leave anything that is yours behind. We will not allow anyone back into the building until the police and bomb squad give us an all clear. DO NOT USE YOUR CELL PHONES. Some bombs are triggered by a cell phone signal.

Shooter in the Building: When it is safe to leave, move to a safe area far from the building where the shooter is located. If you have any information about the shooter, please contact the police after you return home. If you cannot leave, go into a room, lock the door, turn out the lights, and if possible, cover the glass on the door. Silence all cell phones after you call the police and inform them of your location. Be quiet and wait for the police to arrive. The police are looking for one or more shooters, and they have no way of knowing if the shooter is in the room with you. For that reason, when the police enter the room, no one should have anything in his/her hands and each person MUST raise his/her hands above his/her head.

Earthquake: In the event of an earthquake you are advised to take cover quickly under heavy furniture or near an interior wall, a corner, to avoid falling debris. Outside the building are trees and power lines and debris from the building itself that you will need to stay away from. In the building, large open areas like auditoriums are the most dangerous. Do not try to escape on a stairway or elevator. Do not hide under a stairway. We do not recommend that you stand in a doorway because the door could shut from the vibrations and crush your fingers trapping you there.

Women's Self-Defense Class: For interested female students and female faculty and staff, the SIU Public Safety Department sets up free self-defense classes. The SIU Public Safety Department will be teaching this class. They teach a free class in the fall and spring at the Rec Center. In the fall you would register at the Rec Center for the Women's Self-Defense Class or RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) as it is sometimes called. If you have questions about registering for the class, you can send an email to lavong@siu.edu. LaVon is the contact in the Dean's Office in the Communications building that will assist you to try to find the class you need.