Could a College Degree in Comedy Be Anything Other Than a Joke?
almost 2 years ago
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"Emerson is rolling out a B.F.A. in comedic arts. The school swears it’s more serious than it sounds."
"At Emerson, the comedy major is the brainchild of Martie Cook, a professor in the visual and media arts department and a former writer for “Full House” and “Charles in Charge.” For years, her suggestion of a comedy degree had encountered the same objection from skeptical colleagues: Can you really teach someone to be funny? She thinks that question misses the point. “What they don’t understand is that’s not what we’re doing,” Cook says. “We’re not in the business of saying the most serious person on the planet is going to come to us and they’re going to be funny.”"
"The courses aren’t so different from most liberal-arts electives; their narrow focus gives way to more universal questions. For example, the Evolution of Comedy reaches back to antiquity on through Renaissance commedia dell’arte, Elizabethan England and the golden years of Hollywood, focusing on durable comedic constants like the trickster and the fool and the tools of caricature, parody and farce. Another course has students unpacking the texts of films like Mel Brooks’s “The Producers” or Federico Fellini’s “The Temptation of Dr. Antonio.” It’s not just an exercise in close reading, but also a means to connect earlier modes of humor into the contemporary discourse about what is, and isn’t, considered funny."
"For an institution of its size, with roughly 3,750 undergraduates enrolled per year, Emerson has produced a disproportionate share of professionals in the comedy world. Aside from Leary and Cantone, among its graduates are the comedians Jay Leno, Henry Winkler, Bill Burr and Joe Mande; television producers like Norman Lear (“The Jeffersons”), Max Mutchnick (“Will & Grace”) and Kevin Bright (“Friends”); and staff writers on nearly every comedic enterprise you can think of, from The Onion to “The Late Show” to “The Simpsons.” The college leverages that extensive network of successful entertainers to help get their students into the business. While many institutions feature study-abroad exchange programs, Emerson offers a semester of study in Los Angeles in a program led by Bright, where students get a practical apprenticeship in show business. Bright has a saying about comedy of his own, one that runs counter to Ball’s, and one you’ll hear regularly when talking to one of Emerson’s many successful alumni: “Even if I can’t teach them to be funny, I can teach them to work with funny.”"
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