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From the classroom to the big screen: ASU professor shares success

August 02, 2013

Bambi Haggins, associate professor in the Department of English at Arizona State University, has taken her work from the classroom to the big screen with an HBO documentary titled, "Why We Laugh: Funny Women."

Haggins worked directly with "Why We Laugh" series producer Quincy Newell to develop a treatment for the project, which features several well-known women in the comedic industry, including Kathy Griffin, Tig Notaro, Joan Rivers and Whoopi Goldberg. Her goal was to delve into the experience of being a woman in the male-dominated field of comedy, and how that is impacted by social, political and cultural change. The series premiered on Showtime on March 21 to rave reviews.

“It was a great feeling and, more importantly than the work I did, was that these female comics were finally getting their due,” she said.

Sept. 18, Project Humanities will provide a free screening of "Why We Laugh: Funny Women," with a discussion afterward, starring Haggins. The event will start at 6 p.m. on the Tempe campus.

The comedy aficionado also served as a historical consultant in Whoopi Goldberg’s documentary titled, “I Got Somethin’ to Tell You,” a story about the life of actress Moms Mabley. Haggins says the process reinforced her passion for filmmaking and desire to one day create her own masterpiece. She is currently working on an idea for a web series and for a feature-length film.

In the classroom, she instills the same themes she deems important in comedic documentaries. Her course, Comedy as Social Discourse, examines how comic conventions, sensibilities and personae in standup respond to social and political sensibilities at specific historical moments.

“My goal is to get students thinking critically about the media they are consuming. Standup is a great platform to get people talking and thinking about a variety of human experiences in a different way,” she said.