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Unit information: Film and TV Comedy in 2015/16

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Unit name Film and TV Comedy
Unit code DRAM23122
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Alex Clayton
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Film and Television
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit aims to deepen an appreciation of film and television comedy. Through analysis of a range of comedic forms, alongside consideration of theories of laughter and humour, students will acquire an understanding of the workings of comedy and issues which might explain its appeal. The unit includes a practical video assignment designed to help students reflect on the creative challenges and possibilities of comic expression.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

(1) demonstrate detailed knowledge of comedic forms and conventions;

(2) show an understanding of aesthetic and social issues pertaining to the production and reception of comedy;

(3) analyse and evaluate competing theories of humour and laughter;

(4) reflect on the creative challenges and possibilities of screen comedy and appraise individual works in light of these factors.

(5) demonstrate practical skills in one or more aspects of short filmmaking.

Teaching details

Weekly 2-hour seminar/workshop + weekly 3-hour screening/workshop, production tutorials (within workshop sessions) and practical work (both independent and partially supervised).

Assessment Details

2000 word essay (40%) ILO 1-3

3-5 minute film (40%) ILO 1, 2, 5

1000 word reflexive account of practical work (20%) ILO 1-4

Films can be made either individually or in groups, at the unit convenor’s discretion and within a defined range (i.e. individual projects and small groups, or larger groups and no individual projects). The required length of the film will vary, depending on the number of students involved and the specific nature of the project. Films made in groups will be awarded a single grade.

Reading and References

  • Bergson, H. [1900], "Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic" in Wylie Sypher (1956), Comedy (New York: Double Day Anchor Books)
  • Freud, S. ([1905] 2002) The Joke and Its Relation to the Unconscious (Penguin Books)
  • Kerr, W. (1980), The Silent Clowns (Da Capo Press)
  • McGraw, A.P. and Warren, C. (2010), "Benign Violations: Making Immoral Behaviour Funny", Psychological Science XX(X), pp. 1-9
  • Morreall, J (1987), The Philosophy of Laughter and Humour (State University of New York Press)
  • Palmer, J. (1994), Taking Humour Seriously (Routledge)