Over the weekend, the USC Comedy Department hosted three nights filled with laughter, inspiration and joke telling. The festival featured a variety of renowned comedians and professionals in the film industry, highlighting their upcoming projects but also exploring the future of comedy in our ever-evolving society.
Over the course of the weekend, each of these famed comedians set forth the following theme: Comedy serves as a catalyst for change, debunking cultural stereotypes and challenging the established canon of celebrated works.
On Friday, attendees were met with two unforgettable events. The first was the student film festival hosted by Pauly Shore, a comedian known for his roles in Encino Man, Son in Law and The Curse of Inferno. Prior to the event, students in the School of Cinematic Arts had the opportunity to submit short comedic films under four minutes in length.
Of the 55 submissions received, the Comedy Department selected the top 13 films, which were then shown to faculty members and other attendees. The students presented original, memorable films that captivated the audience members, portraying topics like white privilege, current fads and homophobia through creative storylines and skillful cinematic techniques. The students had the opportunity to showcase their filmmaking talent, but highlight how comedy can shed light on controversial issues in a profound way.
Later that evening, USC alumni, students, faculty and guests anxiously awaited to hear from one of the University’s most notable alumni and celebrated comedian, Paul Feig. After graduating from the School of Cinematic Arts, Feig went on to have a widely successful career, directing films like Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy.
He also created the show Freaks and Geeks and has directed episodes of several acclaimed television series, including The Office, Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock. At the event, Feig captured the hearts of audience members with his charming wit, approachable manner and, of course, his contagious sense of humor.
He offered insight into his writing and directing process, explaining how important improvisation and creativity are in his filmmaking process. Feig also encouraged students to not only pursue comedy, but also to create pieces that were thought-provoking, no matter how off-color or controversial they may be.
The following two days of the festival contained awe-inspiring events as well. On Saturday morning, some of the leading women in comedy discussed their stories as comedians and how they have defied the stereotypes that frequently confined them in their careers.
In addition, cast and crew members of HBO’s new comedy series Insecure discussed the elements of the show, which follows the life of an African American woman facing modern-day issues.
The final day also showcased some famed speakers, including Judd Apatow, director of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and This is 40. Apatow examined the potential for success in the world of comedy and shared some knowledge that he gathered throughout his time in Hollywood.
In a matter of three days, the Comedy Festival brought forth some of the most prominent comedians of the modern age, and also demonstrated the inherent value of comedy in our society. These artists underscored that comedians consistently use their humor to address destructive tropes, stereotypes and misconceptions that plague society.