This is a class about the comic, so we will ask, what is comedy? Scholars have notoriously struggled to develop theories of humor, perhaps because humor may be inherently unpredictable and profoundly social. We will start by crafting our individual approaches to analyzing the comic. We will attend to each other’s developing arguments about the comic, largely through discussion. We will then turn to American comedy and its political, social and historical contexts, including comedy’s interactions with the American labor movement, female suffrage, war, bureaucracy, Civil Rights, and Hollywood itself. Is comedy capable of promoting grassroots social change or is it a tool of the powerful?