Forum to examine humor and ideas of American identity

March 26, 2015
Dr. David Gillota
Dr. Frank King

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Platteville College of Liberal Arts and Education will host the faculty forum, “Stand-Up Comedy in America,” on Thursday, April 2, from 5-6:30 p.m. in 136 Doudna Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

The purpose of the LAE Faculty Forum Series is to allow faculty to present information in their research areas to university faculty, staff, students and community members.

At the forum, Dr. David Gillota, assistant professor of English at UW-Platteville, will discuss the ways in which stand-up comedy can be used to explore some of the most important questions about the nature of American identity. This semester, Gillota teaches American Literature of Ethnicity and Immigration, American Humor and Freshman Composition. 

Gillota’s presentation is based on his forthcoming article “Stand-Up Nation: Humor and American Identity,” which explores the ways in which prominent American stand-up comedians use their humor to explore larger ideas about American identity, especially as they relate to issues of race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation and socio-economic class.

“My research on stand-up comedy in America informs my classroom practices, as I discuss the importance of ethnic and gender representation in all of my courses,” said Gillota. “In particular, I feel that discussions of race, gender, class and sexual orientation often emphasize racism and persecution. Stand-up comedy, while it by no means ignores these issues, is often a site of positive resistance and community building and can, therefore, provide a useful counterpoint to trauma and oppression. An understanding of humor, therefore, can provide students with a richer understanding of American culture.”

Following Gillota’s presentation, Dr. Frank King, assistant professor of ethnic studies at UW-Platteville, will respond with a discussion about how Hip Hop and comedy both make connections to issues of race, class, gender, sexuality and religion.

“Both Hip Hop and comedy become key means of information for young audiences to understand social issues,” said King. “Shows like ‘The Daily Show,’ ‘Colbert Report’ and ‘Real Time With Bill Maher’ create conversations in ways that young people can understand systemic issues. Comedians like Dave Chapelle open outlets for social commentary that embrace a form of Hip Hop that has been rarely seen in mainstream formats.”

This semester, King teaches Introduction to Ethnic Studies as well as Race, Class, and Gender. In these courses, he focuses on the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality and religion. His areas of specialization include Hip Hop pedagogy, the prison-industrial complex, Afrocentric philosophy and African American history.

A 30-minute question and answer period will follow King’s response. Refreshments will be served.

As UW-Platteville pursues its vision of being recognized as the leading student-focused university for its success in achieving excellence, creating opportunities and empowering each individual, it is guided by four strategic planning priorities. The faculty forum aligns with three of the priorities, including providing an outstanding education, fostering a community of achievement and respect and enriching the tri-state region. 

Written by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu

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