Scribner Seminar, London FYE 2017
Comics, Jesters, Satirists & Hacks: Locating British Humor
Beck Krefting, Ph.D.
Professor of American Studies
This course will examine the history of comedic cultural production in England through the cultural forms of music halls, vaudeville/variety, comedy performed in working men’s clubs, comedic street performance, televised sketch comedy and stand-up comedy, examining how comedy is influenced and shaped by shifts in social consciousness, changing economy, industrial and technological innovations, political events, and global conflict and relations. We will examine the history of comedy as the history of England.
We will examine styles of comic performance such as shock comedy, charged humor, self-deprecating humor, satire/political humor and performing marginality from contemporary UK comics such as Eddie Izzard, Eliza Smurthwaite, Humza Arshad, Stewart Lee, Gina Yashere, John Oliver, Bridget Christie and many more. Reading popular discourses as critical texts shaping human behavior, attitudes and consumptive practices, we will discuss humor in the modern and digital ages—its production, distribution and consumption. The city of London will be our playground and roaming classroom as we visit historical cultural sites (some still active) for comic performances like Wilton’s Music Hall, Soho Theatre, London Palladium Theatre, Mildmay Working Men’s Club, popular urban sites for street performances like Covent Garden, as well as important centers for the preservation and study of comedy, e.g., the British Museum of Comedy, and the Centre for Comedy Studies Research.
Beck Krefting is an Assistant Professor in the American Studies Department, affiliate faculty for Gender Studies, and director of the Media and Film Studies Program at Skidmore College. She earned an MA in Women’s Studies from Ohio State University (2004) and a Ph.D. in American Studies from University of Maryland, College Park (2010). Her research specializations are studies in humor and performance; identity and difference; media representations; visual and popular culture; and American subcultures. She has published many articles, book chapters and a book on stand-up comedy titled: All Joking Aside: American Humor and Its Discontents (Johns Hopkins UP). To put it mildly, she is amped to teach a course focused on the history of British comedy. Will she eat blood pudding? Likely. Will she perform comedy in Trafalgar Square? Anything is possible.