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Humor Studies Conference Comes to Campus June 17-20

Published: June 15, 2009

The 21st International Society for Humor Studies (ISHS) Conference will be held at CSULB from Wednesday, June 17, to Saturday, June 20.

The ISHS is a scholarly and professional organization dedicated to the advancement of humor research, explained conference organizer Amy Bippus, a member of Communication Studies since 1999. Many of the society’s members are university and college faculty members in the arts and humanities, biological and social sciences and education. The society also includes professionals in the fields of counseling, management, nursing, journalism and theater and entertainment.

“We’re bringing together scholars and professionals from 17 countries,” said Bippus who attended the ISHS’s previous conference in Spain. On Wednesday, June 17, a pre-conference workshop will be held from 2-5 p.m. on the topic of “Teaching with Humor” with Mary Kay Morrison, author of Using Humor to Maximize Learning. In the evening, there will be a mixer at the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden, at which time the ISHS presidential address will take place.

On Thursday, June 18, registration will begin again at 8 a.m. The day’s programming will consist of paper, poster and plenary sessions from 8am to 6 pm. At 7 pm in the Nugget, there will be a Comedy Contest, featuring the comic talents of ISHS members and the CSULB community.

On Friday, June 19, paper and plenary sessions will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the annual member meeting held in the afternoon. On Saturday, June 20, the conference closes with a brunch beginning at 8:30 a.m. featuring guest speaker, Joel Stein, writer for Time magazine and the Los Angeles Times. Brunch will be followed by optional excursion to Southern California attractions including a tour of the J. Paul Getty Museum and a grand tour of Los Angeles. More information is available at the conference’s Web site.

Panel topics will offer an encyclopedic review of all that is humorous –- or not. “One of our best represented topics is gelotophobia, or the fear of being laughed at,” Bippus said. “Other topics will include humor and religion, humor and the workplace, humor as it relates to mental and physical health, how children develop their sense of humor and how humor can help us deal with the impact of illness and mortality. A number of presenters will address how humor works across divisions of race, nationality, sexuality and gender.



“We will have experts who will demonstrate software that develops jokes and a panel of stand-up comedians who will discuss how they develop their routines and hone their timing,” she said. “There will be panels that deal with humor in the recent elections. And there will be ample coverage of humor in pop culture, covering everything from TV series like `The Office’ to `The Colbert Report’ to the films of Alfred Hitchcock.”

Bippus is happy about the level of CSULB student participation. “There’s been a lot of student involvement,” she said. “I’m pleased with the way they have used their participation in a class we’re offering in conference management to organize everything from potential advertisers to the graphic logo for the conference, and we also have students working on the organizing committee, not to mention the students presenting their own work at the conference.”

The range of participants is especially impressive considering the relative youth of the organization. “I’m really excited about the fact that this is truly an international and interdisciplinary conference,” she said. “There’s something here to interest everyone.” The next conference will be held in Hong Kong, June 24-27, 2010, hosted by the City University of Hong Kong. “This is only our 21st conference,” she said, “but being this young also has its advantages. I’m pleased the membership is not 100 percent academic. We bring in members who practice comedy by performing, writing or drawing it. This conference will center on what makes something humorous and the role of humor in all areas of our lives. That is the common thread that spreads out across all the different topics.”

The humor conference’s strength is its universality. “Everyone has an inherent interest in humor,” Bippus said. “If you’re a scholar, you’ll be interested in the scholarship. If you just like to laugh, there will be people who can offer insight into why you laugh. There will be someone with software that can help you write a joke. You can talk with professional comics and take away something that will improve your timing. Anybody who has ever described themselves as having a sense of humor will find something here. And for those who don’t have a sense of humor, come and try to get one.”