How Do You Like It So Far uses pop culture to take soundings of a society in transition, exploring intersections with civic imagination and engagement, and social and political change. Henry Jenkins and Colin Maclay are your guides on this adventure.

Episode 28: Taking risks: comedy as tool for social justice

In this episode we talked to Caty Borum Chatoo (Twitter: CatyBC), Director of the Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI) and Executive in Residence at the American University School of Communication in Washington, D.C. Before academia, she ranged from working with Norman Lear to producing documentaries. She collaborated with comedian Hasan Minhaj on the documentary, Stand Up Planet, identifying comedians in the Global South who tackled serious social justice issues, including global poverty. Comedians and activists share the common goal of identifying problems with the status quo. Caty takes us through why comedy is a viable way of talking through, and getting actual engagement, with difficult issues; the new generation of YouTubers and activists who are bringing it to legislators through, for example, comedy videos about the treatment of sexual assault survivors, and the “comedian in residence” they have at her research center. Also, we consider why it is important that people with different lived experiences and backgrounds can speak directly to their publics without first trying to appeal to majority gatekeepers and how the digital has helped re-shape how we think of audiences. Comedy can help with “activist fatigue”: we need hope, Caty says, not just anger, to deal with such depressing issues. If the question is, how do we get people to engage in serious issue? Caty argues that comedy, as solution, needs to be taken seriously.

Here are some more of the things mentioned in this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:

Caty’s forthcoming book (with Lauren Feldman), A Comedian and An Activist Walk Into a Bar: The (Serious) Role of Comedy in Social Justice

The Norman Lear Foundation

A comprehensive list of Norman Lear’s productions

Norman Lear and remaking One Day at a Time

CMSI’s The Laughter Effect: How Comedy Works [to Change the World]

Hasan Minhaj shows Homecoming King and Patriot Act

Comedians Franchesca Ramsey, Zahra Noorbakhsh

Activist Amanda Nguyen

Funny or Die: Even Supervillains Think Our Sexual Assault Laws Are Insane

Abbie Hoffman and The Yippies

Dennis the Menace

More on Bethany Hall, CMSI’s Comedian in Residence

Caty’s Talk, “How Poop Jokes Can Save the World

Baratunde Thurston on Hacking Comedy

Will Rogers’ Native American activism

Eddie Cantor’s Jewish activismListen to our All India Bakchod episode for more on using comedy to address issues

Episode 27: Critics of color: The added value of subtleties, with Eric Deggans

In our third and final installment of the need for critics of color, Eric Deggans, NPR’s first full-time TV critic and author of Race Baiter: How the Media Wields Dangerous Words to Divide a Nation, talks to Henry and Colin about his longtime trajectory in radio and print media. Our guest speaks about how his first encounter with white culture was through radio, and asserts that “podcasting is radio for young people” now. When starting he thought, how can we talk about culture in a unique way, of things that other people cannot see? In his case he thought not only about race, but also about other dimensions, such as being a musician. In terms of television, we talk about how critics of color are needed not only to understand the new shows that better represent minority culture, but also to make visible the prevalence of and default to white culture in general. He says that Luke Cage, for example, hit a few touchstones of growing up black in that time, creating a powerful feeling of nostalgia and understanding that he could not get, for example, with The Sopranos, which he enjoyed as an outsider.

Here are some of the things mentioned in this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:

My Proudest Moment as a Pundit: Bill O’Reilly Calls Me a Race Baiter

Our producer Rennie recommends this opinion piece by columnist Leonard Pitts

Eric’s profile of Luke Cage showrunner Cheo Coker

Eric’s review of The Chi

Eric’s podcast recommendations:

It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders

Pop Culture Happy Hour

We’ll be taking a break for the rest of the year, but have already recorded some great episodes you can expect in mid-January. And make sure to let us know how you like it so far!

Episode 26: Reimagining the ecology of cultural criticism: Elizabeth Mendez Berry and Carolina A. Miranda

This week we continue with the second installment of our conversation about critics of color. Colin and Henry talk to Carolina Miranda, a writer and art critic at the LA Times, and Elizabeth Mendez Berry, Director of Voice, Creativity and Culture at the Nathan Cummings Foundation. Both critics came from a background of studying social movements and politics, but realized they could make a living as critics of art and music. We discuss that as a critic of color, you understand not to pigeonhole an artist, and that ethnicity or race can influence a piece of art, yet so can a film watched in childhood. Yet in a moment where artists have direct access to their audience online, does everyone want criticism, and if so, how do we create a more inclusive infrastructure and economy to incentivize a diversity of voices?

Here are some of the things mentioned in this episode, for those who want to dig a little deeper:

Carolina’s critique on the redesign of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

What it Means to Write About Art by Jarrett Earnest

ARTS.BLACK – a journal of art criticism from Black perspectives

SongExploder podcast

Elizabeth’s essay, Why Cultural Critics of Color Matter