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Essential Objectives

Course Syllabus

Revision Date: 07-Dec-23

Spring 2024 | HUM-1240-VO01 - World of Comedy & Humor

Online Class

Online courses take place 100% online via Canvas, without required in-person or Zoom meetings.

Location: Online
Credits: 3 (45 hours)
Day/Times: Meets online
Semester Dates: 01-23-2024 to 05-06-2024
Last day to drop without a grade: 02-11-2024 - Refund Policy
Last day to withdraw (W grade): 03-24-2024 - Refund Policy
This course has started, please contact the offering academic center about registration


Richard Isenberg
View Faculty Credentials
View Faculty Statement
Hiring Coordinator for this course: Jennifer Gundy

General Education Requirements

This section meets the following CCV General Education Requirement(s) for the current catalog year:
VSCS Humanistic Perspectives
  1. Many degree programs have specific general education recommendations. In order to avoid taking unnecessary classes, please consult with additional resources like your program evaluation, your academic program catalog year page, and your academic advisor.
  2. Courses may only be used to meet one General Education Requirement.

Course Description

This interdisciplinary course explores the nature and role of humor across cultures and many of the forms it has taken throughout history. Examples of comic styles and devices will be critically analyzed in a range of social and performative contexts. Theories of humor will be examined to illuminate how, through generating laughter and expressing emotions and ideas that are often socially suppressed, humor can be effective in entertaining, persuading, communicating social commentary, and even in healing.

Essential Objectives

1. Discuss how humor developed as a mode of communication in antiquity, who has been allowed to use humor and in what settings, and how historic characters like jesters, wits and bards combined humor with critical commentary to persuade, instruct, and address social and political issues.
2. Analyze examples of how and what humor and comedy communicate in a range of social and performative settings, such as comics, cartoons, art, literature, film, theatre, radio, television, and a range of everyday events and conversations.
3. Discuss how the principles of effective and appropriate humor vary between cultural groups and identify common roles for humorists and the types of comic messages that appear to be universally funny.
4. Identify cross-cultural examples of comic styles and devices, such as satire, irony, sarcasm, parody, slapstick, caricature, puns, jokes, and comedic timing, and demonstrate how these can be manipulated to construct effective humorous messages for particular audiences.
5. Examine major theories of humor and hilarity, why we need this, and why individuals react to it differently, as developed by philosophers, artists, psychologists, anthropologists, and biologists.
6. Explore the creative foundations of humor and how it can be both spontaneous and deliberately used to communicate and mediate social tensions around gender, religion, social status, politics, and insecurity.
7. Discuss the status of comedy among the modes of communication, the exploitation of language in joke telling, and the risks, constraints, and ethical dimensions involved with humor.
8. Consider how laughter, the development of a humorous worldview, and a greater appreciation for the comic aspects of our human condition has developed as a movement designed to help individuals with physical and psychological healing and alleviate some of the current problems that confront humanity.

Required Technology

More information on general computer and internet recommendations is available on the CCV IT Support page. https://support.ccv.edu/general/computer-recommendations/

Please see CCV's Digital Equity Statement (pg. 45) to learn more about CCV's commitment to supporting all students access the technology they need to successfully finish their courses.

Required Textbooks and Resources

This course uses one or more textbooks/books/simulations.

Spring 2024 textbook details will be available on 2023-11-06. On that date a link will be available below that will take you to eCampus, CCV's bookstore. The information provided there will be specific to this class. Please see this page for more information regarding the purchase of textbooks/books.

The last day to use a Financial Aid Advance to purchase textbooks/books is the 3rd Tuesday of the semester. See your financial aid counselor at your academic center if you have any questions.


We all live in a funny world, at least some of it. Laughter is natural to us as human beings since birth. Why is that so? Why do we laugh in the face of danger? Why do we find humor in others’ misfortunes? Why do we laugh with our friends and at our enemies? Why do we "get" some jokes and not others? Why do some comedians make us laugh so hard we cry and others make us cringe? Is it healthy to have a sense of humor? These are all questions fundamental to the "Human Comedy." In this course we will explore formal theories about humor, the various forms of comic expression, our personal attitudes toward humor, how humor contributes to our health, and the role humor plays in history and different cultures.

This is an fully asynchronous course, so much of the discussion and work will be done through online forums and texts. While this makes it a bit harder to fully appreciate some types of humor, it has the advantage that each student can manage their own time and weekly work schedule. Assignments will generally be posted on Tuesdays and be due by Sundays.

There will be a weekly discussion forum on our Canvas page. It will simply be a place to record something that happens each week that you found funny. It could be a joke, a humorous personal anecdote, something from the news or media, or anything else you happen to notice in the routine of your daily life.

Students will be asked to read sections from the textbook and related online articles each weak. There will also be online videos to illustrate the concepts presented in the readings. You will be asked to reflect upon and post a short essay each week addressing each topic. To facilitate class "discussion," you will be asked to respond to classmate's reflections as well.

Students will research and present one research paper on a related topic of their choice. Topics might focus on a particular comic form, theory, or artist. By sharing individual research projects, we will all broaden our exposure to the world of comedy.

Students will prepare a comedy performance or presentation. These should be developed from students' interests, skills, and creativity. Possible projects might include a scene from a comic play, clown or mime performance, standup set, joke book, or cartoon portfolio. Two or more students may work on a joint project if appropriate. There is no expectation that any of us will become skilled comics, but being able to tell a joke, draw a cartoon, slip on a banana peel, or recall a funny story are all skills that may come in handy somewhere in your academic, professional or personal life.

Evaluation Criteria

Evaluation for the course will be apportioned in the following way:

20% Class Participation – Class participation will be documented by weekly responses to the two class forums: “Something Funny Happened this Week”, Reflections on Readings and Viewings.

40% Responses to Readings and Viewings

20% Research Project

20% Comedy Performance Project

Everyone who does the work will do well. Everyone who also has fun will do better.

Grading Criteria

CCV Letter Grades as outlined in the Evaluation System Policy are assigned according to the following chart:

A Less than 9893
A-Less than 9390
B+Less than 9088
B Less than 8883
B-Less than 8380
C+Less than 8078
C Less than 7873
C-Less than 7370
D+Less than 7068
D Less than 6863
D-Less than 6360
FLess than 60 
NPLess than 600

Weekly Schedule

Week/ModuleTopic  Readings  Assignments


The Need To Laugh



What is Comedy?/ Reactions to Humor



Evolution of Comedy - Laughing Through Time



Science of Funny - Slapstick/Physical/Props



Superiority/Incongruity Theories of Humor - Character/Sitcom/Improv



Mechanical/Benign Violation Theories - Observation/Anecdote/Story Telling



Relief/Release Theory - Satire/Parody/Farce/Irony



Research Presentations



Cross Cultural Humor - Black/Blue/Cringe/Insult



Humor for Health - Musical Comedy



The Power of Humor - Wordplay/Wit/Wisecrack/Repartee



The Art of Humor - Cartoons/Comics



Humor in Literature



Performance Projects



On Being Funny - Course Wrap Up


Attendance Policy

Regular attendance and participation in classes are essential for success in and are completion requirements for courses at CCV. A student's failure to meet attendance requirements as specified in course descriptions will normally result in a non-satisfactory grade.

  • In general, missing more than 20% of a course due to absences, lateness or early departures may jeopardize a student's ability to earn a satisfactory final grade.
  • Attending an on-ground or synchronous course means a student appeared in the live classroom for at least a meaningful portion of a given class meeting. Attending an online course means a student posted a discussion forum response, completed a quiz or attempted some other academically required activity. Simply viewing a course item or module does not count as attendance.
  • Meeting the minimum attendance requirement for a course does not mean a student has satisfied the academic requirements for participation, which require students to go above and beyond simply attending a portion of the class. Faculty members will individually determine what constitutes participation in each course they teach and explain in their course descriptions how participation factors into a student's final grade.

Participation Expectations

It is assumed that you will choose this course because it meets an academic requirement or sounds interesting and fun. As an asynchronous course you have the flexibility to create your own work schedule, however, you are expected to participate in weekly online discussion forums to be considered present and complete assignments on time.

Missing & Late Work Policy

While you have a great deal of flexibility creating your own work schedule, assignments are expected to be submitted on time. Participation in the weekly forums will be used to determine "attendance" in the class. Class discussion forums will only be accepted for full credit while the discussion is active. Research papers and Performance projects need to be submitted on time so they are available to share as a class.

Accessibility Services for Students with Disabilities:

CCV strives to mitigate barriers to course access for students with documented disabilities. To request accommodations, please
  1. Provide disability documentation to the Accessibility Coordinator at your academic center. https://ccv.edu/discover-resources/students-with-disabilities/
  2. Request an appointment to meet with accessibility coordinator to discuss your request and create an accommodation plan.
  3. Once created, students will share the accommodation plan with faculty. Please note, faculty cannot make disability accommodations outside of this process.

Academic Integrity

CCV has a commitment to honesty and excellence in academic work and expects the same from all students. Academic dishonesty, or cheating, can occur whenever you present -as your own work- something that you did not do. You can also be guilty of cheating if you help someone else cheat. Being unaware of what constitutes academic dishonesty (such as knowing what plagiarism is) does not absolve a student of the responsibility to be honest in his/her academic work. Academic dishonesty is taken very seriously and may lead to dismissal from the College.