From time to time I give a course in comedy theory and writing. In Montreal I teach at McGill University and in Toronto at The Flying Books School of Reading & Writing. A combination of both theory and workshop, the goal is for students to deepen their appreciation of comedy and improve their comedic writing. The next course begins on September 12th and runs every Tuesday for six weeks.
The course begins with a survey of various theories of humour that examine the essence of the comedic. Thinkers such as Hegel, Kierkegaard, Meredith, and Bergson are considered, in light especially of comedy's relation to ambiguity, identity, ethics, and human suffering. Over the six weeks, we then look at important, hilarious and genre-defining comedic works that exemplify various structural and rhetorical techniques.
Throughout the course, students are given both focused exercises and open writing assignments across increasingly more complex comedic forms. Works are shared amongst the class and openly critiqued, and each person is encouraged to try new things, fail, and find out just how they may or may not be funny. Much attention is paid to the creative and writing process.
Guest speakers who make their living in the arts are brought in to discuss their areas of expertise, be it television, film, publishing, or theatre. In addition to sharing their own approaches to writing, they are always happy to provide their stories as how they got their starts, and what it means to make a career in comedy today.