Cover for the Higgins School of Humanities' spring series 'What's so funny?'

Clark's Higgins School of Humanities spring series asks 'What's so funny?'

Lectures, exhibits and films examine how humor connects and divides
February 1, 2017

This spring, Clark University's Higgins School for Humanities presents “What’s so funny?” a series of public lectures, community conversations and exhibits on humor.

“Our symposium asks how humor creates and fragments communities. What larger cultural, social, and political role does humor play? In short, what can we learn when we take jokes, comedy, and laughter seriously?” wrote Amy Richter, director of the Higgins School of Humanities.

The symposium kicked off last week with a community conversation about humor, facilitated by Jennifer Plante, director of the Writing Center, and Richter. Events planned this semester are diverse in topic and tone, and include a lecture on the science of laughter with neuroscientist and standup comedian Sophie Scott, a presentation by cartoonists James Sturm and Caleb Brown, a lecture on the significance of dark humor in contemporary African American artists’ work by curator and scholar Tiffany E. Barber, and a lecture by Ohio State University Professor Judith Yaross Lee about American humor, vernacular values, and the rise of Donald Trump.

Two authors will discuss and sign their books, which will be available for purchase. Elizabeth Greenwood will present, “Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud” which shares the stories of men and women desperate enough to lose their identities to begin again. Chris Edwards will share the contents of his autobiography, “BALLS: It Takes Some to Get Some” — on his transition from female to male in a corporate environment at a time when the word transgender was almost non-existent.

Two Clark theater arts faculty members, Dan Balel and Gino DiIorio, will hold an improvisation workshop and there will be a film screening of Ferne Pearlstein’s feature documentary “THE LAST LAUGH,” followed by a discussion led by Valerie Sperling, professor and chair of the Political Science department, and Richter of the History department.

All listed events are free, open to the public, and will be held on Clark's campus. 

For more information, call 508-793-7479 or email A complete list of events is available at

Photo at top: A partial image of the Higgins School's spring 2017 program cover.