That's funny. Why? Because it's funny. Sigh.
July 7, 2012 1:48 PM Subscribe
I'm teaching a Language of Humour class to high school juniors and seniors. I need recommendations for things that are funny. And I need you to help me not fail.
posted by guster4lovers to education (32 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I'm changing schools, and my new school is a "top 50 in America" type of school, where most students take multiple AP classes and go off to Ivy League colleges, or at least UC's.
I was given a new class (i.e. it's never been taught before) that lasts one semester and is open to any 11th-12th grader for English credit. Basically, instead of taking English 11/12, the kids pick four semester English electives that each have a different topical focus.
The class is built around this description:
The focus of the course is to look at humourous texts and learn what makes them humourous. We will study novels (Confederacy of Dunces), novellas (Candide), short stories (Twain's "Notorious Jumping Frogs..."), political texts (America: The Book), personal essays (Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day and Dave Barry Turns 40), and stand-up routines (Cosby, Wright, Pryor, Gaffney, Chris Rock, etc.). We will supplement these texts with excerpts from humourous films and visual texts, such as cartoons from the New Yorker.
In addition to studying what make something funny, we will examine the purpose and function of humor today and in the past. We will examine humour as a reaction to setbacks, humour as a tool of power, humour as inspiration, and humour as criticism. Because what makes something funny if often a matter of taste, we will examine how culture, age, intelligence, and religion affect our tastes in humour.
There are also four process essays (research, personal essay, analysis of humour essay, compare/contrast theme in several works) and multiple timed writings to fit into the course.
Now, I haven't read Confederacy of Dunces or Candide, and I've only read half of Dave Barry Turns 40 (and I didn't like it). I do have freedom to not use them.
Ready for my actual question(s)?
1. I'm not sure how to make this class more than "Look, this is funny!" - I am aware of Wordsworth's quote about how you "murder to dissect" and that's my worry. I'm not sure how to approach that.
2. Can you help me find the Best of the Web humourous essays/videos/clips, etc. to supplement my course? Bonus points if it is British, as my humour tends to be more Charlie Brooker than Bill Cosby, and more David Mitchell than Richard Pryor.
3. I know I want to start with a research paper, but I am also aware that researching a comedian is not as interesting as I want it to be, and research humour/sub-types of humour are probably too difficult for high school students, even exceptional ones. It would be a 6-8 page research paper FWIW.
4. Convince me that I should spend the small amount of prep time I have this summer reading Confederacy of Dunces or Candide, and/or re-reading Dave Barry Turns 40. Or help me find similar works I could use (although I won't be able to have class sets).
5. I need to find some academic (yet appropriate reading level) works that talk about humour in technical language. Similar to when I teach film criticism and have them learn language like "production choice," I think they need to have some vocabulary in the criticism of humour.
I am SUPER excited about this class. But I am (equally) scared. I have to be careful, as I'm new to the school and don't have tenure, that I walk the line of appropriateness while also making this class as fun as it really should be.
Thanks for your help, Mefi.