MLA Comedy Stylebook Not Funny

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Here’s the problem with the English professors at the Modern Language Association (MLA) attempting to define humor: They’re not funny, at least intentionally.

“Theories of life-writing do not work in stand –up comedy,” Dale Tracy of the Royal Military College of Canada said at a panel on Boundaries: Humor Studies, that was held at the MLA’s annual meeting in Philadelphia this year. Tracy reduces it to a formula: stand-up comedy=person+craft.

On the panel, Jody Berman of the University of Florida looked at “Race, Humor and Subversion in the Work of Five Artists.” Well, maybe two out of three ain’t bad: Subjective though humor is, you might strain a bit to find the comedic content in the work of David Hammons, Glenn Ligon and Jason Musson.

Musson claims that “black people’s anger is marketable.” He himself watches Rodney King videos when he’s working.

Berman herself claimed that “America is the land of the free built by slaves and housing a quarter of the world’s prison population,” or was she quoting one of her favorite comedians?

Tara Friedman of Widener University, who chaired the panel, also gave a presentation entitled “How social media is Ruining Comedy.” We would have to agree.

She notes that “students are uncomfortable with pushing boundaries.”