This site relies on the kind and generous contributions of its editor and contributors. If you would like to become an official contributor, please contact the managing editor at the email address below.
Tracy Wuster (Ph.D., American Studies, The University of Texas at Austin, 2011) is the founding chair of the Humor Studies Caucus of the ASA, the Vice President and webmaster of the American Humor Studies Association, and the operator of the list serve for those two groups–American Humor. He founded this blog in summer 2011, with the help of the Contributing Editors below.
Tracy is working on a book manuscript, under advance contract with the University of Missouri Press, on Mark Twain’s reputation as humorist and author from 1865 to 1882, as well as a number of articles on Mark Twain and other topics. He has published on Mark Twain and Hawaii, Mark Twain and England, and Steve Martin (this guy!). Tracy is an adjunct lecturer in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Texas. If you have questions on this site, wish to contribute, or have a job for Tracy (preferably tenure track), contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Feel free to contact us with queries, questions, and suggestions.
An Educated Sense of Humor (with Amy Nathan Wright and Laura Hernandez-Ehrisman)
Stand-Up Sunday: Doug Mellard and Chuck Watkins
Sharon McCoy (Ph.D., American Literature, Emory University, 2003) is president of the American Humor Studies Association, executive coordinator of the Mark Twain Circle, and an academic free agent. She has been teaching writing and American literature at the University of Georgia since 2004, while researching and writing a book on Mark Twain and post-bellum blackface minstrelsy, Nothing But Trouble. She has published humor-related essays on Mark Twain and the San Francisco Minstrels, and on blackface imagery in Tom Sawyer Abroad and in No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger.
Her interests focus on the complex and often disturbing interplay of race, class, and humor in literature and popular culture. McCoy revels in American literature’s unreliable narrators and trickster figures and in exploring the intricate ironies of American history and literature, relishing the many rich voices that are America. She will cheerfully and relentlessly bend anyone’s ear for hours on these subjects. Forewarned is forearmed.
Caroline Zarlengo Sposto–Poetry Editor
Caroline Sposto has a B.A. in English from The University of Colorado and an M.S. in Electronic Media from Kutztown University. She spent the majority of her professional career as co-founder and managing partner of Sposto Interactive digital agency. In 2009, she returned to creative writing. She has recently published short stories in The Saturday Evening Post and Family Circle Magazine and was named the 2012 Senior Poet Laureate of Tennessee in a national contest.
Matt Powell–Music Editor
Matt is a writer, musician, lawyer and entrepreneur living in Venice Beach, California. He has a Bachelor of Music from Berklee College of Music in Boston and a Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. He is the guitarist and songwriter for The Incredible Heavies and The Sharbettes, as well as the co-founder and designer at Plecas Powell Design, a mid-century modern furniture design company. He often writes about music as a means to explore the interconnectivity of broader issues and themes.
ABE lives in Massachusetts with one wife, two kids, three dogs, and four regrets. Three kids, two wives, one dog, and a life in California would’ve been his preference. He fills the rest of his life tracing the evolution of comedy, looking for descent with the same passion as Mary Leakey in Olduvai Gorge. He also shares Mrs. Leakey’s love of freedom and dislike for rules, which he learned about on Wikipedia. ABE suffers to work for a living while finishing his doctoral degree in editorial studies, a less interesting term for the impenetrable Editionswissenschaft. You might call it “textual scholarship,” or “Henshu-Bunkengaku,” depending on your continent. Feel free to follow any one of his aliases on Twitter if you can find it. Follow @abe_humor
Matthew Daube (Ph.D., Theater and Performance Studies, Stanford University, 2010) has taught in half a dozen different departments at Stanford University, including a year as a teaching fellow at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. His dissertation, “Laughter in Revolt: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in the Construction of Stand-up Comedy” argues for the recognition of stand-up comedy as a distinct performance mode that emerged in the United States following World War II, linked to issues of race and focused on the performance of self. He is particularly interested in the intersections between humor and the performance of identity, and has published articles on the use of ethnic stereotype by the Marx Brothers and the role of the audience in stand-up comedy.
Jeffrey Melton (PhD. University of South Carolina, 1993) is an Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Alabama. He is the author of Mark Twain, Travel Books, and Tourism: The Tide of a Great Popular Movement (University of Alabama Press, 2002, rpt. 2009) and co-editor of Mark Twain on the Move: A Travel Reader(University of Alabama Press, 2009). He has published articles on travel literature, tourism, and humor in South Atlantic Review, Papers on Language and Literature, Studies in American Humor, Popular Culture Review, Studies in American Culture, and Thalia: Studies in Literary Humor. Jeffrey’s role on the site is a pedagogy editor of “Teaching American Humor.”
Steven Brykman: In 1993, Steve Brykman left medical school to write fart jokes for National Lampoon. He has been thrown out of both the 2000 Democratic National Convention and the Smithsonian Museum and has on more than one occasion performed standup comedy naked. Most recently, he infiltrated the Republican party and worked on the Romney campaign at their Boston headquarters. Watch for his account of the most insane campaign in history in the weeks to come.
Brykman has written for and/or appeared on Prairie Home Companion, Comedy Central, G4TV, and the Food Network. His work has appeared in Playboy, Cracked, Nerve, The Huffington Post, and The New Yorker where he was featured in Talk of the Town. As a writing fellow at the University of Massachusetts, his fiction was awarded the Harvey Swados prize.
Carrie Andersen is a graduate student in American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her primary research interests include the intersections between art and politics, subversive and awkward comedy, digital humanities, media studies, popular culture, and 20th century American history. She is also a contributing writer for Laughspin, a website devoted to comedy of any and all varieties.
Bonnie Applebeet (former contributing editor) is a doctoral student in the University of Michigan’s Program in American Culture. She thinks about, watches, and obsesses over class and queer humor in standup comedy and television sitcoms. She has presented on David Sedaris, Mark Twain, and their perspectives on American citizenship as well as the formation and legacy of Anita Bryant’s anti-gay rhetoric (a project that was not funny in the least). She feels uncomfortable discussing herself in the third person but is so thrilled to be a part of this effort and to learn from others in her field that she has conquered this discomfort with great aplomb. Bonnie was one of our original contributing editors and has transitioned to Contributor status.
Joe Faina (former contributing editor) is a doctoral student in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. His studies and writing focus on the relationships between rhetoric, humor, and new media, with several conference publications and journal articles on humor and mass media. He is also an Austin based stand up comedian/writer who performs regularly around town and writes for UT Austin based humor publication Texas Travesty. You can follow him on Twitter or hiswebsite.
M. Thomas Inge is the Blackwell Professor English and Humanities at Randolph-Macon College, where he teaches a course in American humor.
Michael Kiskis: The post linked to below was published in February 2011 by Michael Kiskis on his blog, Kiskis Log. Dr. Kiskis passed away suddenly in May, a shock of great sadness to the community of Mark Twain and Humor Studies scholars who knew well both the insight of his scholarship and his passion for his work. This essay, “The Critics Dream Mark Twain: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” is published in honor of Dr. Kiskis’s life and work. I am reposting it with the kind permission of Michael’s wife, Ann. I encourage you to read further in Michael’s blog and to see his website for more information on his career. See also Michael’s other blog,Canonical Babbling.
Jason Mellard is an instructor with the University of Texas Extension. He recently served as a research fellow at the Clements Center for Southwest Studies of Southern Methodist University where he completed a book manuscript on representations and experiences of Anglo-Texan masculinity in the 1970s.
Beza Merid is a doctoral student in the NYU Department of Media, Culture, and Communication. His primary research interests include stand-up comedy and the intersection between confessional performance and the discourse on illness, disease and death. Beza is interested in how humor is used to talk about pain, as well as the technologies and media forms through which these performances are transmitted. When scheduling permits, Beza enjoys exploring the Manhattan and Brooklyn comedy scenes, visiting as many venues as possible.
Amy Nathan Wright
Phil Nel is Professor of English and Director of the Program in Children’s Literature at Kansas State University. His most recent book is Keywords for Children’s Literature (NYU Press, 2011), co-edited with Lissa Paul. See his excellent blog, Nine Kinds of Pie, which features great posts on children’s literature, comics, music, academia, and other subjects. Check it out.
Don and Alleen Nilsen: Don and Alleen Nilsen became emeritus professors at Arizona State University on May 15th, 2011. Their opus magnum is the Encyclopedia of 20th-Century American Humor which in 2000 was selected as an “Outstanding Academic Book” by Choice, and which in 2001 won an “Outstanding Reference Source” award from the American Library Association’s. Don has also written three books about humor in British literature, one about humor in American literature, and one about humor in Irish literature. In 2004, Don and Alleen published two books about teaching metaphor in public schools, and in 2007, they published their Names and Naming in Young Adult Literature. Don and Alleen’s most recent book is their revisedPronunciation Contrasts in English, about half of which is about English spelling as a rule-governed system. Don and Alleen are presently working on the 9th edition ofLiterature for Today’s Young Adults, which will appear in 2012.
David B. Olsen–Former Contributing Editor
David B. Olsen is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of English at Saint Louis University, with an emphasis in American literature, experimental fiction, and visual narrative. He is currently finishing his dissertation, “Sign and Design: The Visual Language of Contemporary Fiction,” which explores novels in which images, photographs, graphic design, and typography are at once essential to and irreducible from the narrative itself. He is also an adjunct faculty member at SLU, where he has taught courses in writing, literature, science fiction, and graphic novels.
He has presented his research at many unsuspecting conferences across the country, including the Modern Language Association, International Comic Arts Forum, College English Association, Media Ecology Association, and San Diego Comic-Con International, where he was once asked a question about deconstruction by a grown man dressed as Harry Potter.
Michael Giles Purgason
Ben Railton is Associate Professor of English and Coordinator of American Studies at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. When he’s not chasing his two young sons, he runs the American Studier blog (http://www.americanstudier.org) and is working on his next couple book projects. He’s also pretty funny, although the pressure of being funny in this brief bio has proven too much for him, and he apologizes.
Sam Sackett is a reformed English professor old enough to remember radio. He left teaching for journalism, then advertising, then public relations; then, having become an expert on career change, he spent 15 years in career management. He’s back in the US after having spent six years retired in Thailand, which he spent writing novels and short stories.
Self Deprecate is the website of Jason Parker. It is an excellent source on current political humor. Go there.
Richard Talbot is a freelance nonfiction journalist living in Minnesota. It is his particular bent to see the most uncommon aspects of the most common things. His work has appeared in newspaper, magazines, professional journals, and reprints have appeared in the U.K. and the Asian market in Korean translation.