A Comedian and an Activist Walk into a Bar: The Serious Role of Comedy in Social Justice (Communication for Social Justice Activism #1) (Paperback)
"A comprehensive and insightful examination of the ways comedy can help shape social justice movements."––Hasan Minhaj, Comedian and Host of the Netflix series Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj
Comedy is a powerful contemporary source of influence and information. In the still-evolving digital era, the opportunity to consume and share comedy has never been as available. And yet, despite its vast cultural imprint, comedy is a little-understood vehicle for serious public engagement in urgent social justice issues – even though humor offers frames of hope and optimism that can encourage participation in social problems. Moreover, in the midst of a merger of entertainment and news in the contemporary information ecology, and a decline in perceptions of trust in government and traditional media institutions, comedy may be a unique force for change in pressing social justice challenges.
Comedians who say something serious about the world while they make us laugh are capable of mobilizing the masses, focusing a critical lens on injustices, and injecting hope and optimism into seemingly hopeless problems. By combining communication and social justice frameworks with contemporary comedy examples, authors Caty Borum Chattoo and Lauren Feldman show us how comedy can help to serve as a vehicle of change.
Through rich case studies, audience research, and interviews with comedians and social justice leaders and strategists, A Comedian and an Activist Walk Into a Bar: The Serious Role of Comedy in Social Justice explains how comedy – both in the entertainment marketplace and as cultural strategy – can engage audiences with issues such as global poverty, climate change, immigration, and sexual assault, and how activists work with comedy to reach and empower publics in the networked, participatory digital media age.
About the Author
Caty Borum Chattoo is Director of the Center for Media & Social Impact and Assistant Professor at American University’s School of Communication in Washington, DC.
Lauren Feldman is Associate Professor in the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University.
"The book is a nourishing read that is both practical and accessible. It is certainly worth the time for anyone interested in either comedy or activism."
— Mass Communication and Society
"How do we open up social research and discourse to wider audiences; how do we highlight the absurdities of our world, making us laugh and think? . . . Bringing together researchers, activists and comedians can only serve to support more informed, engaged and hopeful audiences."
— LSE Review of Books
"The strength of the book lies in its breadth of topics, the specificity of observations, and the directness of recommendations. With clear and accessible language, the authors advise social justice organizations to collaborate with comedians while giving them creative freedom, and embracing the messiness of the creative process."
— International Journal of Communication
"A Comedian and an Activist Walk into a Bar offers a compelling and innovative account of the critical role mediated comedy plays in U.S. society today. . . . The book will be of great interest to students and scholars, as well as those who work for nonprofits, the policy sector, and the media industries."
— Journal of Public Interest Communications