In late September I received an e-mail inviting me to a ‘launch of the Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR)’ at Brunel University, London. The mail described the CCSR as:
‘(…) an international research centre devoted to the academic study of comedy (…). The new interdisciplinary Centre will consider the production, content, reception and wider socio-political implications of comedy in its variety of formats from a range of perspectives. The Centre will bring together leading academics and writers from media and communications, sociology, psychology, theatre, drama, film and television, computing, English, creative writing, social work and ageing studies.’
Without much hesitation I booked my plane tickets to UK in order to attend what I was sure would be a very interesting event (I have to admit, the perspective of having a pint or two of the good ‘ol ale and fish & chips wrapped in yesterday’s news was a factor, too).
I was not disappointed to say the least: I found the beer at reasonable prices and fish fried as crispy as usual …and the launch of the CCSR was successful beyond expectations:
The event started off with three interesting academic presentations: A paper by Dr Simon Weaver titled ‘A Pole, a Russian and an Englishman: Trickster Comedy in the New Europe’; the ‘Make Me Laugh’ project, a three-year research project exploring creativity in the British television comedy industry presented by Dr Brett Mills (Principal Investigator); and last but not least: a non-British contribution to the launch, a research paper by Professor Liesbet van Zoonen (Loughborough University and Erasmus University, Rotterdam) titled: ‘How Funny Can Islam Controversies Be? Comedians Defending their Faiths on YouTube’.
Then there was a panel of experts: heavyweight comedians (e.g. Jo Brand and Lee Mack, both the CCSR ambassadors), the men and women of the industry gathered to discuss the current state of affairs in the world of the comic showbiz.
They all expressed some concerns for the comedians, and stand-up comedians especially, who struggle to compete with the influx of the on-demand comedy content, easy available via social media (YouTube) and VOD platforms like Sky or Netflix. Combined with the worldwide crisis keeping the islanders from clubs and pubs, where the stand-up comedians used to perform, all of which painted a rather gloomy picture. The panel, however, exhibited impressive coping skills and kept on cracking jokes one after another, clearly and adeptly using humor as a defence mechanism.
Professor Victor Raskin, one of the fathers of the linguistic approach to studying humor in psychology, was also present at the launch. His presence inspired me later to approach Dr Sharon Lockyer, a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Communications at Brunel and the director of the CCSR, to ask her couple of psychology-related questions:
What role do you think the psychology of humor will play in the CCSR?
Dr Sharon Lockyer: Psychology will play a very important function in the CCSR by contributing to our understanding of how and why comedy is produced and consumed, and examining the psychological impact of producing, participating in and engaging with comedy in its variety of formats.
Are there any on-going or planned projects where the psychological research on humor will be involved?
Professor Lynn Myers (Health Psychologist) and I are currently working on a project that explores the use of, and engagement with, stand-up comedy by people with different coping styles and the ways in which attending stand-up comedy may be used as an effective coping mechanism.
Are any other psychologists already involved in the CCSR (I know that Professor Victor Raskin was at the launch)?
Yes, psychologists are already involved in the CCSR – Brunel colleagues include Professor Lynn Myers and Dr Martina Reynolds. Professor Victor Raskin and Professor Julia Taylor attended the CCSR launch and are very supportive of the centre. A number of Psychologists from across the globe who were unable to make the launch have sent their good wishes for the CCSR and hope to attend future events, including the CCSR Comedy Matters Research Seminar Series that begins on 27th November 2013. In this first seminar Dr Louise Peacock (University of Hull) will give a talk entitled ‘Sending Laughter Around the World’. This talk will examine the therapeutic nature of clowning, play and laughter on those who experience clown performances in difficult and potentially dangerous settings. Everyone is welcome to attend. For further details please see the Events section of the CCSR webpage.
Photographs from the CCSR launch can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bruneluniversity/sets/72157636383952616/with/10418671376/
I would like to thank Dr Sharon Lockyer for the interview; and thank her and other people involved in the CCSR for organizing the launch.