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Heard on CultureShift

Comedy Can Change How We Think About Social Justice

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Image credit: Bogomil Mihaylov / Unsplash

In the new book “A Comedian and Activist Walk into a Bar: The Serious Role of Comedy in Social Justice,” co-authors Lauren Feldman and Caty Borum Chattoo explore how comedy and social change have influenced one another over the past decade.

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Comedy is a crafty way to divulge dark truths and critique everything through humor.

Comedy really does have properties to decrease tension; to shift public opinion, educate and mobilize.”

In the book A Comedian and Activist Walk into a Bar: The Serious Role of Comedy in Social Justice, co-authors Lauren Feldman and Caty Borum Chattoo suggests that in the digital age where comedy has vast space for public engagement, it may also be a unique force for change in pressing social justice challenges.  

Listen: How comedy and storytelling can be used for social justice activism. 


Courtesy of UC Press
Courtesy of UC Press

When we look around at movements for equity and justice, one thing we thought was that movements were not taking comedy seriously,” says Borum Chattoo, who is also the executive director of the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University. “This book is really designed to provide evidence, research and stories about how and why comedy is so persuasive.” 

Comedy really does have properties to decrease tension; to  shift public opinion, educate and mobilize.” — Lauren Feldman, author

With the use of contemporary comedy sketches and field research, the pair details how comedy in both the entertainment sphere and as cultural strategy is able to engage audiences and touch on issues ranging from climate change and poverty to injustices and sexual assault.  

Comedy really does have properties to decrease tension; to  shift public opinion, educate and mobilize,” says Feldman, author and associate Professor of Journalism & Media Studies at Rutgers University. “And it does it in part because of the positive emotions it can generate.

Comedy brings an element of the popular and creative in entertainment that can be really galvanizing and we show that through our research and that of others.

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Ryan Patrick Hooper, Host, CultureShift

Ryan Patrick Hooper is the host and producer of CultureShift. As a longtime arts and culture reporter.

hooper@wdet.org Follow @HooperRadio

LaToya Cross, Producer, CultureShift

LaToya Cross is a Producer with CultureShift, where she produces in-depth content that spotlights creatives and individuals using their platform to examine, cultivate, shape and shift culture.

Latoya.cross@wdet.org Follow @ToizStory

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