By Lisa Cumming 

Ryerson School of Journalism

How far back in the history of comedy do you go and how far outside of the pop-culture comfort zone do you want to go?

These are the questions Ryerson contract lecturer Adam Nayman is asking himself about the new course he will be teaching on comedy in journalism starting in the winter of 2017. 

Adam Nayman, a session instructor at Ryerson School of Journalism. (Courtesy the Ryersonian)

Adam Nayman, a contract lecturer at Ryerson School of Journalism. (Courtesy the Ryersonian)

“There’s a wide historical body of comedy in journalism and a much longer timeline to look at, and I have to figure out how much of that I can put into the 12 week class,” said Nayman. “I don’t want it to be 12 weeks of turning the DVD player on and saying ‘this is funny.’”

Comedy and journalism go together very well because they’re both interrogations and confrontations with power, he said.

“Ideally journalism is a check on power. There’s theory on that and there’s literature on that, but hopefully it’s an understanding among those who practice journalism,” said Nayman. “As far as comedy goes, comedy is always against power, comedy is not funny from the top down – comedy is funny from the ground up.”

The course will be offered to journalism students and also to students in other disciplines who are taking News Studies courses.

This class will not be a practical applications class, Nayman is not trying to teach his students how to be journalists but how to analyze texts, literatures and ideas.

“Processing information and using that information and knowledge to look at and evaluate a work, whether it’s a work of prose or a work of film, that skill set can help [students] build something later on,” he said. “It’s like reverse-engineering, if you can deconstruct a piece of writing you can build one.”

Nayman says he will tackle issues like Charlie Hebdo as satire. He encourages discussion in his classroom. “It would be a pretty bad class if I just came in with readings on Charlie Hebdo and said, ‘I think this.’ That probably wouldn’t go over well.”

Nayman says the course will be rigorous.

“This is not a bird course,” he said, “It’s not going to be, ‘here’s a bunch of stuff that Adam finds funny.’”