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Comedy as a social justice superpower: Interview with producer, researcher and writer Caty Borum

As we close out Comedy Month at Spitfire, we want to share an insightful interview with Caty Borum, Executive Director of the Center for Media & Social Impact and Associate Professor of Communication at American University, on comedy as a superpower for advancing social justice.

Borum is the author of the new book, The Revolution Will Be Hilarious, a fascinating look at how comedians and social justice activists are working together for good. Caty is interviewed by Spitfire Vice President, Nima Shirazi. 

As communicators, we often use facts, figures, and data to explain the difficult issues that we work on. The thinking is that serious topics demand serious words and numbers. But as Caty told us, “comedy makes it a little bit easier to talk about taboo topics, to remember messages more clearly, to amplify messages because we tend to remember them more and share them more.”

In this clip, Caty and Nima talk about why comedy matters in our movements to create a better world.

Throughout the month of March, Spitfire has highlighted comedy as a powerful tool for engaging new audiences, opening conversation about difficult topics and creating community. Alongside the Center for Media & Social Impact, we co-produced a comedy show and book launch event for The Revolution Will Be Hilarious at Caveat Comedy Club in New York City.

For that event, Spitfire and CMSI brought out five diverse comedians who had us heaving with laughter as they talked about mental health, disabilities, racial justice, immigration, LGBTQ equality and serious illness. Caty and Zebya Rahman of the Doris Duke Foundation shared mini case studies of how comedians are tackling serious issues with humor and working with social justice organizations. Zeyba also talked about why funders should invest more in the work.

CMSI and Spitfire also co-hosted an after party for Caty’s book launch in D.C. that brought together advocates, nonprofit staff, and people who just needed a good laugh. On our social media channels, we highlighted funny people who incorporate social justice themes into their work.

Click here to watch the full interview with Caty Borum


Caty Borum (@CatyBC) is a professor, scholar, award-winning media producer and  author working at the intersection of entertainment storytelling, documentary, creative culture, and social justice. She serves as Executive Director of the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University, is the co-founder of the Yes, And… Laughter Lab and the GoodLaugh program, and is the author of three books, including A Comedian and An Activist Walk Into a Bar: The Serious Role of Comedy in Social Justice, co-written by Lauren Feldman, and Story Movements: How Documentaries Empower People and Inspire Social Change. Her newest book is The Revolution Will Be Hilarious: Comedy for Social Change and Civic Power, published this month by NYU Press.
This entry was posted on Friday, March 31, 2023 at 09:03 am and is filed under Campaign planning, Communication planning, Frame, narrative and message development and Spitfire culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.