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The Shame and Songs of Satire

David Misch

Satirists have been mocking society’s foibles since the poets of ancient Rome, but right now is their Golden Age. Hollywood screenwriter and author David Misch joins us from Santa Monica to present two talks looking at how satire (often with music) deals with society’s taboos and inevitable censorship, from Horace and Juvenal to Gilbert & Sullivan and Key & Peele.

October 31 a.m.: The Shame of Satire

The Daily Show, The Onion, and countless comics try to shame the shameless by taking pungent, potent pokes at society’s hypocrisies. But do they have any effect? Even many comedians say no, yet pushback has been harsh — not just the Charlie Hebdo massacre but repression of satirists worldwide, from imprisonment of bloggers in China to satire on trial in Germany. Even in America, satirists are frequently accused of going too far. (Comic George Carlin said, “I find out where they draw the line then step over it.”) With clips and commentary, this class explores how satire works and whether it really changes anything.

October 31 p.m.: The Greatest Satirical Songs

Adding music to satire can make it more powerful. In early Germanic and Celtic societies, people broke out in boils and even committed suicide if attacked in song. This class looks at some of the most powerful — and funniest — satirical songs in history, inspired by singer-songwriter Tom Lehrer, who said, “If, after hearing my songs, just one human being is inspired to say something nasty to a friend, or perhaps to strike a loved one, it will all have been worth the while.” Musical selections include Randy Newman, Amy Schumer, Gilbert & Sullivan, Chuck Berry, Weird Al Yankovic, Steve Martin, Groucho Marx, Monty Python, Spinal Tap, and Bugs Bunny.

Instructor: David Misch is an author (A Beginner’s Guide to Corruption; Funny: The Book), screenwriter (Mork and Mindy, Saturday Night Live, The Muppets Take Manhattan), teacher (comedy at USC and musical satire at UCLA), and lecturer (Yale, the Smithsonian, Oxford University, University of Sydney, American Film Institute, and UCLA’s Osher Institute). He is a graduate of Pomona College. More can be found at davidmisch.com.

Coordinator: Steve Clarey

Course Number: OSHR-70022   Credit: 0 units

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