American University

New Reports Provide Insights Into Role of Comedy in Social Change

24-Jul-2017 12:05 PM EDT, by American University

Good morning!


Newswise — For centuries, comedy’s power has been harnessed to bring about social change. A powerful weapon, comedy opens doors to complex issues, persuades us emotionally, and breaks down social barriers. We love it. We watch it. We follow our favorite comedians and share our favorite skits on social media. In today’s highly polarized political climate, comedy makes us reflect on many important issues and, often, to take action. Yet, even though humor offers frames of hope and optimism that encourage participation in social problems, there has been little serious study of how comedy inspires serious public engagement.


Caty Borum Chattoo, the American University School of Communication professor and director of the Center for Media & Social Impact, studies the effect of comedy on social change. Her unique research aims to understand the connection between comedy and social justice.


Her new studies The Laughter Effect: The [Serious] Role of Comedy in Social Change” and “Laughter Matters: Samantha Bee, Comedy and the Refugee Crisis” aim to provide answers to these important questions: How do comedic appeals and portrayals work to inform, persuade, and motivate audiences? How have distinct genres of comedy – from sit-coms to satirical news to stand-up and sketch – been used to engage audiences in civic and social issues? How can social-change agents (researchers, strategists, producers, comedy writers, and producers) use comedy to impact serious social issues?


To learn more about Prof. Caty Borum Chattoo’s new studies and to speak with her, please contact me.

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