Getting to Yes, And

Caty Borum: The Revolution Will Be Hilarious


Caty Borum

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Kelly re-connects with American University professor Caty Borum whose new book, "The Revolution Will Be Hilarious" looks at the intersection of social justice and comedy.

I love how you start the book when you write, “I have a few things to say about comedy people.”

“There's this kind of confessional, deviant play where we all get to just drop the banal small talk and talk about things that are weird and funky, and I've always been that kind of person. So, it occurred to me, as I was sort of wrapping up the book, I thought: What kind of author am I? I should give a little confession about how I am also that kind of person. Like, the fact that the universe saw to it that I would study these topics and write about them and work with comedians doesn't feel accidental. You know, I was a very clowny kid. I got in trouble for talking too much in school. I still get in trouble for talking too much in meetings. I cannot stop telling the undercover joke, and so, I felt like I needed to tell my readers that I’m not just a scholar and producer in this work, but I get it because I am a little bit of a deviant character myself, and I mean that in the best possible way.”

People are going to be surprised that comedy and the play of comedy can be so important when trying to solve thorny problems.

“The play is really part of it. Right? I mean, we lose so much when we forget play. And I know this is what you write about specifically how principles of improv really help us to problem solve and create strategic thinking and all of that. And it is absolutely true when we think about all the meetings that we all have to suffer through. If the meetings where your problem solving or directing a strategy, and the air in the room is so thick with self-importance and egos and all of it, and once you kill that energy, you can't bring it back, right? So, you do sometimes need one or 2 people who can be willing to be introducing ideas of play into the space just to get at the innovative thinking.”

And comedy can show us the spectrum of individuals rather than single types.

“What has happened far too often in this country - spoiler alert institutional racism and sexism - I'm so sorry if this is where you're finding out about this. But in that cultural landscape I'm talking about in our entertainment culture - when we only see particular groups portrayed as either a superhero or some kind of a negative, dehumanizing trope, there is a way in which we can't see the full expression of that lived experience. When comedy is allowed to tell us the stories of women and people of color and people from the disability community and LGBTQ2+, we get past this idea of either like hero or villain, and we can see people in all of our banal, hilarious humanity.”

Photo credit: Michelle Hayes

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