A flyer featuring drag queen Miss Shuga Cain promoting a benefit show at MIT in 2016.

Miss Shuga Cain, a drag queen from New York City, performed a benefit show at MIT in 2016. Instructor Rosa Martínez organized that event and found inspiration in Miss Shuga Cain for this course, which examines the history of comedy and how jokes and laughter can teach us about our culture and ourselves. (Image courtesy of the instructor.)


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Spring 2016



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Course Description

Course Features

Course Description

This course is designed around analyzing what’s so funny and why is it that we laugh when we do. How is comedy characterized on the fictional page, the screen, and the stage? And what might the comic teach us about the self and culture(s), especially when we come to understand its patterns of transgression as confounding social norms through jokes and laughter? Tracking a history of comedy, beginning with the first Greek humorists, Aristophanes and Plautus, we will traverse genres, periods and cultures to reflect on various types of humor: satire, farce, slapstick, love, tragedy, parody, and screwball.

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Related Content

Rosa Martínez. 21L.021 Comedy. Spring 2016. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

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