Laugh Your Way through the Library!

“Comedy is a funny way of being serious.”

Peter Ustinov

Comedy is essentially about disruption, and in times of political unrest, it can be a powerful tool in helping those on the “outside” respond to those on the “inside.” The next DePaul Humanities Center event focuses on “Transformations: Clowns, Jesters, & Tricksters: Laughing from the Inside the Outside.”  The panel brings together a veteran performer of comedy Rik “Bonzo Crunch” Gern—a former Ringling Brothers Clown—with two scholars whose work investigates iconic figures in the history of comedy: the trickster and the court jester.  Margaret Noodin studies Native American literature and culture and will speak about the trickster in Anishinaabe stories. You can learn more about the subject by browsing James Cox and Daniel Justice, The Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literature . Beatrice Otto, considered a leading expert on the figure of the court jester, will share her insights about this intriguing character. Check out her book to find out how the court jester could influence local politics not only in the courts of the English monarchy but also those of Chinese, African, and Middle Eastern royalties:  Fools are Everywhere: The Court Jester around the World.

If you’ve ever wondered how a “class clown” can find a career, take a look at Jan Goldberg’s Careers for Class Clowns and Other Engaging Types  in the Career Information Collection, located on the first floor of the John T. Richardson Library.

Searching for a fascinating topic for your next paper? Consider the role of satire in politics.  You can go back in time to read early 17th-century British authors’ writings on the subject. Among our collection of Early English Books Online, you can find, for example, the 1605  Foole upon Foole, or, Six Sortes of Sottes, a delightful title that ends with “Not so strange as true.”  If you’ve never thought about distinguished historical figures as Thomas More or Benjamin Franklin as “fools,” then read Ralph Lerner’s Playing the Fool: Subversive Laughter in Troubled Times.  For the kind of “moral outrage” expressed in religious satire, see Terry Lindvall, God Mocks: A History of Religious Satire from the Hebrew Prophets to Stephen Colbert.  If you want to explore the topic in an American context, you have numerous options, among them: Bruce Granger, Political Satire in the American Revolution, 1763-1783 ; Sophia McClennen, Is Satire Saving a Nation? Mockery and American Politics;  Post-Soul Satire: Black Identity After Civil Rights, edited by Derek C. Mann and James Donohue. Once you’ve done your homework, you might want to take up Ludwig Wittgenstein’s challenge: “A serious and philosophical work would be written consisting entirely of jokes.”

See you on Monday, May 8, at the DePaul Student Center, room 120, located at 2250 N. Sheffield Ave. The event is free and open to the public.

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