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Project Humanities kicks off fall with humor ... seriously

August 02, 2013
Editor's note from Aug. 19: Due to a change in scheduling, Bill Nye will not be headlining the Project Humanities kickoff on Sept. 16. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Nye will be presenting at ASU on Nov. 25.

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the Project Humanities fall semester kickoff, of course.

The weeklong fun begins on Sept. 16 with a series of discussions and film screenings that support the theme of “Humor ... Seriously!” Free and open to the public, events touch on more than just surface level stand-up comedy.

John Morreall, professor of religious studies at the College of William & Mary, will present on humor in religion at 2 p.m., Sept. 17, at Barrett, The Honors College. While some feel that humor does not have a place in something as serious as religion, Morreall counters that Zen Buddhism, the ancient Greeks and the Fellowship of Merry Christians are just some of the groups who celebrate humor.

Best-selling author and former ASU professor Laurie Notaro will demonstrate how to incorporate humor into literature and writing. The discussion, which takes place at 6 p.m., Sept. 17, in the Cooley Ballroom on the Polytechnic campus, will teach participants where to find inspiration, establish timing, the role of rhythm and much more.  

On Sept. 17 at 7 p.m.on the West campus, critically-acclaimed writer and artist, Allison Bechdel, will spend an evening discussing her use of humor in comic strip writting and graphic novels. Bechdel gained wider recognition for her work with the publication in 2006 of her groundbreaking graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Fun Home was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and was named Best Book of 2006 by Time Magazine.

ASU alumnus David Jacobson will present on using humor as a therapy mechanism at 3:30 p.m., Sept. 18, at the Mercado on the Downtown Phoenix campus. The lecture, “What doesn’t kill you makes you funnier,” will detail the appropriate and inappropriate uses of humor, therapy methods – such as laughter yoga – and an in-depth look at humor in the healthcare system.

Later in the evening, ASU associate professor Bambi Haggins will participate in a screening of the HBO hit, “Why We Laugh: Funny Women,” which she helped write. The documentary features several well-known women in the comedic industry, including Kathy Griffin, Tig Notaro, Joan Rivers and Whoopi Goldberg. It starts at 6 p.m. on the Tempe campus.

Mathew Whitaker, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, will oversee a screening and discussion of "Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy" at 6 p.m., on Sept. 19, on the Downtown Phoenix campus. The documentary features interviews with Bill Cosby, Chris Rock, Whoopi Goldberg, Dave Chappelle and more.

Comedy fans and entrepreneurs will want to attend a special talk from Krissy Lenz, director of the National Comedy Theatre, and Matt Dearing, owner of Tempe Improv, at 3 p.m., Sept. 20, in the W. P. Carey Building on the Tempe campus. The pair will draw upon their personal experiences as entrepreneurs to share insight into the world of comedy and entertainment marketing.

Ending the week off right, Phonetic Spit will be holding a workshop and open mic session at noon and 2 p.m., Sept. 21, for young people looking to establish their voice to become a driven and contributing citizen of the world. The group uses spoken word poetry to improve literacy and end silence. The workshops will take place at the Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix.

To view the entire lineup, visit