Conference Schedule

            Humor in America


a joint conference of the

American Humor Studies Association


The Mark Twain Circle of America

 July 12-14         Chicago, IL         Roosevelt University*


*This conference is not a function of Roosevelt University

AHSA2018_program in PDF format


  Thursday (Wabash 611) Thursday (Wabash 616)   Friday

(Wabash 611)

Friday (Wabash 616)   Saturday




8:00-9:00 Coffee, Tea, & Pastries à   Coffee, etc.     Coffee, etc.  



Session #1

1. Mark Twain & Politics






2. Challenging Humor




  Session #6

10. Private

Mark Twain





11. Sustainable Laughter




  Session #12

18. Breaking Boundaries

Fuchs Abrams




19. Irreverent Twain








Session #2

3. Political Laughter & Its Consequences







4. Television Humor







  Session #7

12. American Humor & Technological







13. Humor and Genre






  Session #13

20. Laughing at   Difficult Topics





21. Conflict, Violence, and Comedy







AHSA Lunch and Business Meeting


Session #3

5. On the Internet





6. Mark Twain & Religion




  Session #8

14. Plenary:

Publishing in Humor Studies and Mark Twain

  Session #14

22. Standing Up






“Waiting for Susy”

A Short Play



Session #4

7. Humor on Page and Stage






8. Comedic Performances





Session #9

15. Performing Mark Twain






16. Humor in American Periodicals




24. Writing Humor/

Writing Gender





25. Social Contexts of 19th Century Humor





Session #5

9. Plenary Talk:

“Satire as the Comic Public Sphere”

James Caron







Session #10

17. Plenary Roundtable: The futures of humor/comedy studies

Wuster, Michelson,

Krefting, Hennefeld




26. Plenary Talk:

“American Humor and Matters of Empire: An Immodest Proposal”

Judith Yaross Lee



5:30-6:30   Session #11







Thursday, July 12, 2018


8:00 – 9:00am Coffee, Tea, and Pastries


Session #1 — 9:00 – 10:15am

Panel #1— Mark Twain and Politics (Wabash 1016)

Session Chair: Martin Zehr


Gadflies Through the Ages:

Socratic Principles of Irony in Mark Twain and Contemporary Political Satire

John Phillip Baker, Harding University


Posing as Ignorant, Passing as Colorblind: Stephen Colbert’s Debt to Mark Twain

Virginia Maresca, St. John’s University


Mark Twain’s “The Treaty With China”: Politicization of his Humor, or “Humorization”

of his Politics?

Martin Zehr, Kansas City, Missouri


Panel #2—Challenging Humor  (Wabash 1017)

Session Chair: Pete Kunze


What Do We Do with Daniel Tosh?: Shock Comedy and Defensive Meta-Comedic Rhetoric

Allison Douglass, The Graduate Center, CUNY


The Shades of Chappelle: A Comparative Analysis of His Early and Later Stand-up

Mariann J. VanDevere, Vanderbilt University



Session #2 — 10:30am – 12:00pm

Panel #3— Political Laughter and Its Consequences (Wabash 1016)

Session Chair: Maggie Hennefeld


“Fake News”: from Satirical Laughter to Alternative Facts
Maggie Hennefeld, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


Mockumentary and the Critique of the Fourth Estate

Joshua Glick, Hendrix College


Wet Humor

Kyle Stevens, Appalachian State University


Feminist Comedians as Political Battleground

Amber Day, Bryant University



Panel #4— Humor on the Television  (Wabash 1017)

Session Chair: Jeffrey Melton


A Comedy of Errors: NBC’s Sitcom Failings in the 1970s

Laura Brown, Boston University


Comedic Cultural Exchange: America and Canada’s Comedy Interplay

Jay Friesen, University of Alberta


“Two Scoops of Haagen-Dazs French Vanilla Boobies”: Dark Humor and Sex Positivity in

Netflix’s Big Mouth

Sam Chesters, University of Houston


Through the Eyes Fools: Social Commentary in Baskets

Elizabeth Kelsey, University of Missouri, Kansas City


12:00-1:00 — Lunch


Session #3 — 1:15-2:30pm

Panel #5— Humor on the Internet (Wabash 1016)

Session Chair: Jo Ann Oravec


“Weird” Humor as a 21st Century Aesthetic Category

Andrew Dorkin, University of Buffalo, SUNY


The New Wave of Social Activists: Public Intellectualism’s Increasing Sense of Humor

Rachel Blackburn, University of Kansas


From Heckling to Online Social Shaming: Implications for Humor and Comedic


Jo Ann Oravec, University of Wisconsin at Whitewater and Madison



Panel #6— Mark Twain and Religion  (Wabash 1017)

Session Chair: Larry Howe


“Undeceive Yourself”: Mark Twain’s Satan Markets Religion in Letters from the Earth

Micah Hallman, Middle Tennessee State University


Mark Twain’s Serious Humor and That Peculiar Institution: Christianity

Christopher Kramer, Santa Barbara City College


Revising Genesis, for Laughs:  Mark Twain’s Adam and Eve’s Diaries

Larry Howe, Roosevelt University


2:30-2:45 Coffee and Pastries


Session #4 — 2:45-4:00pm

Panel #7— Humor on the Page and Stage (Wabash 1016)

Session Chair: John Lowe


Anaesthetizing and Alienating Pain: Black Comedy on the Stage

Miriam Chirico, Eastern Connecticut State University


“I’m the biggest hypocrite”: An Analysis of Black Assimilation and Afro-Pessimism in Paul

Beatty’s Slumberland

Tajanae Barnes, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Double Yoke? Double the Joke! The Comedy of Dual Ethnicity in The Last Night of

      Ballyhoo and Mona in the Promised Land

John Lowe, The University of Georgia


 Panel #8—Comedic Performances  (Wabash 1017)

Session Chair: David Gillota


Dick Gregory: The Journey from Comedy to Civil Disobedience

Don Baird, Independent Scholar


The Dark Side of Stand-Up Comedy: Archetypes of “Darkness”

Eric Shouse, East Carolina University


The Boundaries of Performance: Experimental Stand-Up Comedy

David Gillota, University of Wisconsin, Platteville


4:15-5:30pm — Plenary Talk

(Session #5—Wabash 1016)


Satire as the Comic Public Sphere


James Caron, President, AHSA

University of Hawai’i at Manoa

Satire has always been a particular kind of speech act, but what does satire mean for the public sphere of politics and public discourse? That question is urgent when we consider the postmodern penchant for irony and parody, and especially the impact of social media on public discourse—what Alan Kirby calls “digimodernism”—in the twenty-first century. The itinerary for this lecture begins with the idea of the public sphere, its current digital form, and how the idea of the comic public sphere functions as supplement, followed by discussion about speech act theory and how satire might be understood as a particular form of comic speech. In a final stop, we’ll look at two examples of recent satire with a well-defined activist ingredient.


Friday, July 13, 2018

8:00 – 9:00am Coffee, Tea, and Pastries


Session #6 — 9:00 – 10:15am

Panel #10— Private Mark Twain (Wabash 1016)

Session Chair: John Bird


Venice, Italy, and the Influence on Twain’s Life and Satire on Capitalism

Harold Helwig, Idaho State University


Humor, Play, and Games in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Artur Skweres, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland


Waiting for the Punchline to Land: Twain’s Reader Correspondence and Kinds of

Humorist Engagement

Courtney Bates, University of Findlay


Panel #11—Sustainable Humor (Wabash 1017)

Session Chair: Kim Ruffin


A Big Bear, A Beanfield, and A Landslide: Crafting a Humorous Dwelling Place in

Nineteenth-Century Nature Writing

Benjamin Click, St. Mary’s College of Maryland


“Shaky Ground”: An Ethos of Humor in Twentieth-Century Nature Writing

Brian O’Sullivan, St. Mary’s College of Maryland


Stuffed Owls, Ducks, and Loons: The Earthbound American Lyric

Calista McRae, New Jersey Institute of Technology


Response: Kim Ruffin, Roosevelt University


Session #7 — 10:30am – 12:00pm

Panel #12— American Humor & Technological Change (Wabash 1016)

Session Chair: Philip Scepanski


“Where the Future is Being Made Today”: Technological Breakdowns on The Muppet

   Show vs. Technological Breakthroughs on Fraggle Rock

Daniel Amernick, Marist College


Virtual Slapstick: Digital Technology, Threats to Identity, and Technophobic Comedy

Philip Scepanski, Marist College


Deep in ESPN’s Tape Library: Negotiating Institutional Priorities in Cheap Seats

Alex Kupfer, Vassar College


Sarah Silverman Loves America: The Comedian as Critical Pedagogue

Peter Kunze, University of Texas at Austin


Panel #13— Humor and Genre (Wabash 1017)

Session Chair: Jennifer Hughes


From Duffy’s Tavern to Shameless: Irish-American Working-Class Identity on the


Andrew Gaber, University of Arkansas


Extemporaneous Rhetoric and the Art of Improv

Jason Parker, Texas Woman’s University


“How Did These Get Made”: Towards a Theory of Comedy Podcast Consumption

Owen Cantrell, Perimeter College


“Any Questions?” A Postmodern Exploration of David S. Pumpkins

Meredith Pasahow, Texas Women’s University



AHSA Lunch & Business Meeting

If you did not order a box lunch, please see Tracy Wuster

during the conference or feel free to attend.

We will have some extra lunches.

(Wabash 1016)


Session #8 — 1:15-2:30pm

Panel #14— Plenary: Publishing in Humor Studies and Mark Twain (Wabash 1016)

Chair: Larry Howe

Participants: Studies in American Humor editorial team—Larry Howe, Jim Caron, David           Gillota, Sabrina Fuchs Abrams

Mark Twain Annual editorial team—Chad Rohman, Ben Click

Mark Twain Journal/—Matt Seybold

Humor in America series editors—Judith Yaross Lee, Tracy Wuster

Mark Twain and His Circle series editor—John Bird


Session #9 — 2:45-4:00pm

Panel #15— Performing Mark Twain (Wabash 1016)

Chair: Alex Effgen


Twins of Genius?: A New Examination of the Twain-Cable Lecture Tour

John Bird, Winthrop University


Perspectives from the Stage: performing Mark Twain

Richard Henzel, Performer and Independent Scholar


Between Comedy and Spoken Words: Contextualizing Hal Holbrook in “Mark Twain


Alex Effgen, Independent Scholar



Panel #16— Humor in American Periodicals  (Wabash 1017)

Session Chair: M.M. Dawley


Fanny Fern’s Domestic Activism: Using Humor to Buffer Sentimental Fiction

Abigail Hennon, Indiana University of Pennsylvania


Samantha Allen: Marietta Holley’s Suffragette Sage

M.M. Dawley, Boston University



Session #10 — 4:15-5:15pm

Plenary Roundtable: The futures of humor/comedy studies (Wabash 1016)


Tracy Wuster, The Twain Shall Meet

Bruce Michelson, Comic Dimensions

Maggie Hennefeld, Laughter Theory at the Crossroads of Affect and Power

Rebecca Krefting, The Future of Laughing Matters


5:30-6:30 — Session #11

(Wabash 1016)


Democracy Burlesque:

Sketches from its upcoming show,





DB COMEDY is Chicago’s only theatre company entirely devoted to political satire and sketch comedy (as far as they know). Since 2006, DB Comedy’s Writers of Wrongs develop shows built around specific themes, in sketch format, performed by their in-house troupe, The Actors of Evil. Many of their performances are partnerships with nonprofits or neighborhood do-gooders, creating communities to raise money, ideas, consciousness, or just share a laugh or an emotion.




Saturday, July 14, 2018

8:00 – 9:00am Coffee, Tea, and Pastries


Session #12 — 9:00 – 10:15 am

Panel #18—Breaking Boundaries (Wabash 1016)            

Session Chair: Sabrina Fuchs Abrams


Breaking Boundaries: New York Women of Wit in the Modern Age

Sabrina Fuchs Abrams, SUNY Empire State College


Hannah Gadsby Stands Down: Feminist Comedy Studies

Rebecca Krefting, Skidmore College


‘My Mom’s a Cunt’: Bitches and Bawds Ride the Fourth Wave

Joanne Gilbert, Alma College



Panel #19— Irreverent Twain  (Wabash 1017)

Session Chair: Linda Morris


Doppelgangers, Flatulence, and Old Northumberland: The Subversive Humor of Mark

Twain’s Tudors

William Robison, Southeastern Louisiana University


“Land, What a Sight!”: Medieval Curiosity in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Patrick Kindig, Indiana University    


“A Delirium of Laughter” in the Texts of Mark Twain

Linda Morris, University of California, Davis


Session #13 — 10:30am – 12:00pm

Panel #20—Laughing at Difficult Topics: Humor on Rape, Race, AIDS, and Genocide (Wabash 1016)

Session Chair: Jennifer Caplan, Towson University


We’re Safe Here, but Poland is a State of Mind: Jewish Literature and the Exploitation of

Holocaust Consciousness

Jarrod Tanny, University of North Carolina, Wilmington


“In My Time We Was Too Scared To Talk Open”: Rape and the 1970s American Sitcom

Sascha Cohen, Brandeis Universiy


Richard Pryor’s White Body

Amadi Ozier, Rutgers University


Glitter and Be Gay: Camp Politics, Queer Resistance

Matthew Jones, Miami University


Panel #21— Conflict, Violence, and Comedy (Wabash 1017)

Session Chair: Matt Seybold


Humor and Conflict in the Nineteen Twenties

Teresa Prados-Torreira, Columbia College Chicago


Prosocial Racial Humor in Luís Valdez’s “Los Vendidos”

Mark Hama, Angelo State University


The Neo-Slapstick Problematic: Comedic Violence and Humor-as-Crisis in Contemporary

‘Reality’ Media

Joshua Louis Moss, Cal State University-Chico


Joke, Joke, Jeremiad: A Poetics of Neogliberalism

Matt Seybold, Elmira College




Session #14 — 1:15-2:30pm

Panel #22—Standing Up (Wabash 1016)

Session Chair: David Gillota


A Stage of Their Own: The Feminist Comedy Circuit, 1974-1994

Mariana Brandman, University of Chicago


Challenging the Stand-up Stage’s Gendered Space: How Female Comics Negotiate the Affordances of Televisual Stand-up Specials

Eric Forthun, The University of Texas at Austin


“Quit Being White and Weird”: Tom Segura’s Post-Politically Correct Post-Race Standup

Jared Champion, Young Harris College



Panel #23—“Waiting for Susy” by Bruce Michelson  (Wabash 1017)


World premiere of a short play about Sam Clemens, one daughter, and a furry French mysterious stranger.  Rouen, 1894.


Bruce Michelson, University of Illinois

John Bird, Winthrop University

James Caron, University of Hawai’i

Megan Dawley, Boston University


2:30-2:45 Coffee and Pastries



Session #15 — 2:45-4:00pm

Panel #24— Writing Humor/Writing Gender (Wabash 1016)

Session Chair: Jeff Melton


Zombie Jesus and Organ Donation: Benign Violation in Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This

                 Never Happened

Linda Kornasky, Angelo State University


Deliberate Design: Barbara Brandon, Anita Hill & the American Comedic Tradition

Jaylah Burrell, DePaul University


Erma Bombeck and the Humor of the Mundane

Jeffrey Melton, University of Alabama


Panel #25— Social Contexts of 19th Century Humor (Wabash 1017)

Session Chair: Todd Thompson


Conduct Literature and Women’s Wit in the Early United States

Yvette Piggush, College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University


Almanacs and Annexation: Comic Imperialism in the 19th-Century Pacific

Todd Thompson, Indiana University of Pennsylvania




4:15-5:30pm—Plenary Talk

(Session #16—Wabash 1016)


American Humor and Matters of Empire:

An Immodest Proposal


Judith Yaross Lee

School of Communication Studies, Ohio University


What do The Book of Mormon musical, The Interview movie, and Mark Twain ‘s novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court have in common?  All are comic fantasies of American empire with varied takes on the role of the US in the world.  In doing so they counter two other strands of American humor, which rely on rhetorical continuity with or vernacular rejection of the former colonial relations of the US and Europe. After years in which ethnic and media studies have splintered American comic rhetoric into many distinct traditions, Judith Yaross Lee draws on ideas from postcolonial studies to consider how matters of empire braid distinct American comic themes, media, and techniques into what Edward Said called contrapuntal harmony.