Thursday, 9/11/14

September 11th is a sad day.  We will start our class with a moment of silence.


Our work today is also very grave and serious, because we will be looking at the shooting of Michael Brown and the following events in Ferguson, Missouri.  You might ask what in the world a tragic homicide has to do with humor, and that would be a great question.  Actress Carol Burnett has a famous quote:


A tragedy is something terrible that happens.  According to the quote, after enough time has passed since a tragedy happened, it can be become funny.  You may have heard people say, “Too soon, too soon,” if someone makes a joke about something that just happened.  When you did the world cafe of questions about humor, your answers about things that shouldn’t be joked about included:


Race is on there.  And so is “the dead” and “people who have passed.”  So what happened in Ferguson just one month ago seems, on all accounts, to be off limits for anything related to comedy, because: (1) It’s very recent, (2) It has to do with race, and (3) It involves death.

One of our goals for this unit is to explore what makes things funny and how humor can be used to create social change.  To explore how humor might be used to create social change in this instance, we will first watch some traditional news coverage of the events in Ferguson, and then we will watch Jon Stewart’s coverage from The Daily Show and discuss (1) If it’s “too soon,” (2) how it may or not be helping people understand what’s happening, and (3) what the differences in effect are in the two types of reporting.

CNN covered the events in several segments.  This is one of them:

With your partner, discuss:

  • What you learned from this clip
  • How it made you feel

Jon Stewart covered the events in several segments on his show.  This is one of them:

With your partner, discuss:

  • What you learned from this clip
  • How it made you feel
  • How the information may be received differently than the information from the traditional coverage

As a group, we will share our major takeaways from our partner conversations, but we must be respectful of each other and listen when someone is speaking.

For homework, you have two reading assignments.  Like the videos we watched today, one is serious and one is comedic.  Your job is to read both and answer the same questions we talked about in class today:

  • What did you learn from each text?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • How may the information be received differently in a serious text than a comedic text?

You will receive hard copies of each text, but you can also find them online to read on  your phone or computer here:

  1. Slate’s comprehensive Ferguson Police Timeline
  2. The Onion’s Tips for Being An Unarmed Black Teen

Your notes from today, courtesy of Ms. Cardi (thank you!), are here:


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