Our course begins with the premise that contemporary American comedy is informed by the histories of ethnic American groups -- African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and U.S. Latinos/Latinas -- along with issues of race, class, sexuality and citizenship. American comedians, independent filmmakers, feminists and transgendered comics deploy the language of comedy to invoke serious social matters in contemporary American life: racism, heterosexism, homophobia, class biases against the poor and the undocumented, misogyny, war and other burning issues of the day. We will thus consider that the ends of comedy are more than laughter. Comedy confronts political issues that are constitutive of and threatening to the U.S. body politic. (Gen Ed AL)