Stand Up USA: American Comedy and Humour


From Mark Twain to Ali Wong, this unit charts American comedy’s discussions of race, class, gender, and sexuality, and of party and identity politics. Comedy challenged and transformed the existing norms of social and political structures in the United States, as well as American identity, sex, and gender. Through forms such as literature, television, stand-up, cinema and new media, students will learn that comedy creates a space for agitation, exploitation, community, and freedom.

Emily Serifovski
"This interdisciplinary approach to study has really allowed me to be creative in my approach to understanding America. Being able to use contemporary texts like music, television, and film is really engaging and the units I’ve done with the Centre have been my favourites in my degree.” Emily Serifovski, Bachelor of Commerce and Arts

The unit will explore major styles of American comedy and humour, with students developing a broad body of knowledge about its culture and history. Recognising the interrelationships of American comedy and humour with ethnicity, politics, gender, and social institutions in 20th century and contemporary United States, the unit will allow students to enhance their understanding of the methods and evidence used to study culture at the university level. The unit will require students to develop research questions and synthesise diverse sources to build and defend a reasoned position in response to those questions.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit a student will be able to:

  • Identify major trends in American comedy and humour
  • Evaluate the relationships between American comedy and humour and American culture and politics
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the concepts, narratives, and methods used in the interdisciplinary field of American Studies

The fine print

Available in Semester 2, 2022
1 x 2 hour lecture per week
1 x 1 hour tutorial per week

18 Junior credit points or 12 credit points at 1000 level in American Studies. Some students may be able to apply for an enrolment exception, so please contact the unit coordinator to discuss your requirements.

More details
Visit the University of Sydney website for information about fees, cross-institutional and non-award study, and more.

Unit coordinator