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Unit of study_

AMST2606: Stand Up USA: American Comedy and Humour

Semester 2, 2022 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

From Mark Twain to Dave Chappelle, this unit charts comedy's discussions of race, class, gender, and sexuality, and of party and identity politics in the form of parody and satire. Influenced by ethnic, minority, and working-class cultures, comedy challenged and transformed existing norms of American family and institutions, and American identity, sex, and gender. Through forms such as literature, television, stand-up, cinema, and new media, students will learn that comedy provided a space for resistance, profit, and community.

Unit details and rules

Unit code AMST2606
Academic unit United States Studies Centre
Credit points 6
12 credit points at 1000 level in American Studies or 12 credit points at 1000 level in Cultural Studies
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Rodney Taveira,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Research essay
40% Formal exam period 2500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Participation Tutorial participation
10% Ongoing Ongoing.
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2
Assignment Blog post 1
10% Week 05
Due date: 04 Sep 2022 at 23:59
500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3
Assignment Essay proposal
20% Week 07
Due date: 18 Sep 2022 at 23:59
500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Blog post 2
10% Week 10
Due date: 16 Oct 2022 at 23:59
500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3
Assignment Blog post 3
10% Week 13
Due date: 06 Nov 2022 at 23:59
500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3

Assessment summary

  • 500 words essay proposal and annotated bibliography –  The proposal + annotated bibliography which is not included in the word count. This assessment task gets you started on your research essay. It requires you to choose a topic, identify/pose research questions, identify your sources, and discuss how you will answer your question.
  • Blog posts (3 x 500 words) – Students will author three blog posts across the semester.
  • Research essay (2500 words) – Questions will be distributed during semester. This assessment task is your opportunity to research an area of interest to you within the broad scope of American comedy and humour. It builds on work you did for the essay proposal.
  • Tutorial Participation Notes – Tutorial participation begins, obviously, with attendance, but it requires more than attendance. Each week, you must write a half-page of notes, or roughly five questions or points that arose in the course of your readings. These questions and/or points should be devised to trigger further discussion about ideas, issues, or events related to the reading/s that week. These questions should be posted in the discussion board for each week.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100



75 - 84



65 - 74



50 - 64



0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction; Native American trickster tales Lecture (2 hr)  
Winnebago trickster cycle; Walter Blair, “The Requisites for American Humor”; David Gillota, “Stand-Up Nation: Humor and American Identity”. Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 02 Early American humour; Mark Twain; Civil War humour; Lecture (2 hr)  
Civil War humour; Mark Twain Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 03 Vaudeville, burlesque; radio; periodicals, modern humorous writing Lecture (2 hr)  
George Ade, H. L. Mencken, Dorothy Parker; George Saunders. Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 04 The Silent Clowns; early animation; Jews in comedy. Lecture (2 hr)  
Irv Saposnik, “These Serious Jests: American Jews and Jewish Comedy"; John Limon, “Nectarines: Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks". Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 05 Television: variety and sitcoms. Lecture (2 hr)  
Aniko Bodroghkozy, “Smothering Dissent"; Lady Dynamite (S1). Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 06 Stand-up: sick, satirical. Lecture (2 hr)  
Joanne R. Gilbert, “Question of Genre"; Lenny Bruce; Ali Wong, Baby Cobra. Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 07 Women in comedy. Lecture (2 hr)  
Nora Ephron; Christopher Hitchens vs women; Rebecca Krefting, “When Women Perform Charged Humor: The (Gendered) Politics of Consumption"; Patricia Lockwood, "Rape Joke". Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 08 Comedy and (Nuclear) War; Satire; News parody. Lecture (2 hr)  
Dr. Strangelove; Melvin Maddocks, “Comedy and War"; Paul Lewis, “Introduction,” Cracking Up; Oliver Morrison, “Waiting for the Conservative Jon Stewart". Tutorial (1 hr)  
Research methods Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO2 LO4 LO5
Week 09 African American comedy and humour. Lecture (2 hr)  
Paul Beatty, The sellout plus excerpts from Hokum: An anthology of African-American humour. Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 10 Film comedy: screwball, comedian, romantic, cult. Lecture (2 hr)  
Some Like It Hot; The Big Lebowski; Mean Girls; Superbad. Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 11 Return of ethnic comedy; Christian and Mormon comedy. Lecture (2 hr)  
Rebecca Krefting, “Laughing into the Millennium"; Daniel Radosh, “Our Mouths Were Filled With Laughter". Tutorial (1 hr)  
Week 12 Minority comedy; comedy and the internet. Lecture (2 hr)  
Memes; online comedy; selections from The Onion. Tutorial (1 hr)  

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: According to Faculty Board Resolutions, students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are expected to attend 90% of their classes. If you attend less than 50% of classes, regardless of the reasons, you may be referred to the Examiner’s Board. The Examiner’s Board will decide whether you should pass or fail the unit of study if your attendance falls below this threshold.
  • Lecture recording: Most lectures (in recording-equipped venues) will be recorded and may be made available to students on the LMS. However, you should not rely on lecture recording to substitute your classroom learning experience.
  • Preparation: Students should commit to spend approximately three hours’ preparation time (reading, studying, homework, essays, etc.) for every hour of scheduled instruction.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed on the Reading List link available on Canvas.

  • Required Textbook: Paul Beatty, The Sellout (2015)

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. identify major trends in American comedy and humour, and evaluate the relationships between American comedy and humour and American culture and politics
  • LO2. display an understanding of the concepts, narratives and methods used by different disciplines to study the United States
  • LO3. demonstrate a capacity for experimental and problem-solving tasks on the borders between disciplines
  • LO4. demonstrate a greater ability to pursue genuinely interdisciplinary methodologies in other units
  • LO5. communicate knowledge in discussion and scholarly writing.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

Adjustments have been made to group assignments - they are now individual tasks.

More information can be found on Canvas.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

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