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No Joke: American University has Comedian in Residence

The initiative is the first in the country, and is set to bring in new information about the way comedy shapes and brings attention to important social issues.

American University is trying something new to connect the public to social issues through comedy: a Comedian in Residence.

The new position is part of the Laughter Effect, which focuses on helping people understand the world and social issues through comedy. This is the second year since the launch of the Effect by American University’s Center for Media & Social Impact.

The comedian in residence title for the year goes to writer and performer, Bethany Hall. Hall is a regular on TruTV’s “The Chris Gethard Show.” The job is a one-year fellowship that began in January of 2018.

The creators of the Laughter Effect hope to start conversations on campus about things that are not normally simple to talk about.

Hall told the Washington Post, “My goal is to speak to people’s hearts,” and “to make people laugh with me who aren’t socially on the same page that I am.”

Caty Borum Chattoo, director of the Center for Media & Social Impact, realized that the research done on the study of comedy and social issues was vast but not specific. This was when they decided to bring Hall directly to the source, on campus.

“Those of us who are not professionally funny people — we may be funny professionals, but not professional funnies — we can’t write comedy, we can’t make it great and hilarious and engaging, and something that will be shared by millions of people,” Borum Chattoo told the Washington Post.

They hope to use this year-long fellowship as a stepping point to creating future programs that combine comedy and social issues throughout the country.

“And so if we have somebody like Bethany and her incredible network of comedians who become interested in talking about issues that matter through comedy . . . we might have a whole new area of work to study and learn from,” Borum Chattoo said.

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