The Art & Politics of Comedy

a Discovery Core Experience

This course may be taken as either BCORE 120 (Arts & Humanities) or as BCORE 119 (Social Sciences)

About This Course

The course explores the role of comedy as an art form and as a force for social and political commentary. We begin with a historical focus on the role of comedy and comedians in art, literature, and folk traditions (as jesters, satirists, and critics).

The course will then examine the contemporary history of political comedy in mid-20th century in America through late night TV, sketch comedy, the emergence of stand-up, and meme culture. Finally, the course looks at how dangerous practicing comedic arts can be in authoritarian countries such as Egypt, China, Turkey, and Russia, while highlighting the strange phenomenon of comedians running, and sometimes winning, electoral positions in places like Italy, Brazil, and Ukraine.

What Will We Be Doing?

Throughout the course we will explore the philosophy of comedy, free speech, free expression, the changing nature of obscenity, the risks comedians take to call out injustice, the importance of speaking truth to power, and the cathartic experience of collective laughter.

Class will also explore what inclusive comedy can look like on contemporary college campuses, as we survey the landscape of contemporary comedic forms that generate cultural controversy and provide social critique, including a thriving alt-comedy scene in the Seattle area. Students will also get to research political and social comedy of their choosing and share their favorites with the class.

Dr. Jason Lambacher (he/him/his)

School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences

About Dr. Lambacher

TEACHING: Political Theory, International Relations, Environmental Political Theory, Environmental Ethics, Global Environmental Politics, Global Justice & Activism, Philosophy

Ph.D. Political Science, University of Washington 2013


When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

Kikuyu Proverb

I acknowledge that I live and work on the un-ceded ancestral lands of the Coast Salish people and pay my respects to elders past and present.