Course Description

Science has some impressive achievements: splitting the atom, understanding the cosmos, plumbing the mysteries of life itself. The one thing science cannot do is tell a joke. While artificial intelligence can be programmed to generate mild quips (“Siri, will you marry me?” “My end-user license agreement is commitment enough for me”), when it comes to originality, its’ funny fully fails. Why? Because even the world’s most powerful computer cannot match the human brain’s ability and agility in humor: instantaneously ferreting out unexpected associations then gauging whether other humans will find them funny, lame, or incomprehensible. With the help of Monty Python, Indiana Jones, Amy Schumer, HAL 5000 and R2D2, this session explores the roles of dopamine, deception, pattern recognition, rejection of the random and perspective shift in both comedy and science. Participants will learn how and why humor evolved from reflex to strategy to favored evolutionary trait (as with so much in life, the answer involves wooly mammoths), and how the structure of jokes reveals that Humankind’s greatest strength – our compulsion to find meaning in everything, which has fueled science’s greatest achievements – is also the weakness that provides the foundation for all humor. Join us for an insightful and engaging discussion!

Course Outline

About the instructor:

David Misch wrote and produced stage and screen comedy for more than 40 years; his credits include “Mork and Mindy,” “The Muppets Take Manhattan” and "Saturday Night Live.” He’s also an author, playwright, songwriter, blogger, recovered stand-up comic, and teacher (his own comedy courses at UCLA and USC), and has spoken at the Smithsonian Institution, Yale, Columbia, the American Film Institute, Grammy Museum, Sony Pictures, Oxford University, Austin Film Festival, Raindance Film Festival (London), VIEW Cinema Conference (Torino, Italy), University of Sydney and many others. Too much more at davidmisch.com.


Cancellation Policy

Cancellation must be received in writing at least one week before the start of classes. You will be issued a refund, less a $10 administrative fee. Please contact Student Services at stuserv@unc.edu.

Alternatively, participant substitutions are welcome. If you cannot attend an event, you can contact us with the name of the individual who will take your place.

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