West Virginia University presents the 35th colloquium on literature and film September 13-15. This year’s theme is “The Language of Humor.” With a diverse group of speakers and attention-grabbing topics, everyone is sure to learn more about what makes us laugh.

The colloquium’s keynote talk, titled “Humor in Documentaries? You’ve got to be joking!” will be given by Ross McElwee, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and professor of the practice of filmmaking at Harvard University. This event takes place on Friday, Sept. 14, in the Mountainlair’s Gold Ballroom from 5:30-7 p.m. It will be preceded by a viewing of McElwee’s film Bright Leaves on Thursday, Sept. 13, beginning at 8 p.m. in G-09 White Hall, also on WVU’s downtown campus.

“Looking back over the films I have made during my 34 years as a documentarian, I see a fairly broad range of interests and issues: racial inequality in the South, the Cold War, nuclear weapons proliferation, the corrosive effect of sensationalism in broadcast news, big tobacco—serious matters all,” McElwee said. “But in all of them I manage to find some humor—usually at my own expense—to lighten the load. And it’s a delicate load to balance. I will offer up a personal filmmaking journey over what is sometimes very rough terrain, dodging some deep potholes en route to discovering patches paved with humor.”

McElwee has made nine feature-length documentaries as well as a number of shorter films. His films have been included in the festivals of New York, Berlin, Toronto, London, Vienna, Rotterdam, Florence, and Sydney. In 2005, complete retrospectives of his films were presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and at the International Festival of Documentary Cinema in Lisbon. He received the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival’s Career Award in 2007. McElwee’s In Paraguay premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2008, and he returned to Venice in 2011 to premiere his latest film, Photographic Memory.

Another highly anticipated event is “Comedy in the Making: A Conversation with Anne Harris of Comedy Central” featuring Anne Harris, director of talent at Comedy Central in New York City and Jay Malarcher, theater professor and humor scholar at WVU on Friday, Sept. 14, in the Mountainlair’s Gold Ballroom from 1-2 p.m.

In the face-to-face with Malarcher, Harris will address such questions as “What do comedians see that normal folks don’t?” and “What does a professional look for in evaluating comedy talent?”

Harris has been scouting and developing comedy talent for more than 12 years. Most recently for the network, she has served as executive in charge on all three seasons of “John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show,” as well as one-hour stand-up specials including Hannibal Buress’ “Animal Furnace,” Matt Braunger’s “Shovel Fighter,” and Todd Barry’s “Super Crazy.”

Malarcher is an associate professor in the School of Theatre and Dance in the College of Creative Arts at WVU. He is a renowned scholar of comedy, having edited a volume of the journal Theatre Symposium devoted to comedy history and theory; written a biography of the legendary Larry Gelbart; and taught “American Comedy as Cultural Mirror” as part of a Fulbright lectureship at the University of Zagreb in Croatia. He is currently working on a book tying disparate theories of comedy together, tentatively titled “The Situation of Comedy.”

On Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14 and 15, all sessions will take place in the Mountainlair. In addition to McElwee’s and Harris’ talks, the program is comprised of 25 panels in which humor scholars from around the globe will discuss the many ways humor is used in literature and film. The complete program is online: http://www.as.wvu.edu/~sbaldwin/colloquium/program.html.

This event is sponsored by the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics. Co-sponsors include the Department of English, the Department of History, the College of Creative Arts, the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and the West Virginia Humanities Council.

All sessions are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Deborah Janson, at 304-293-8320 or wvucoll@mail.wvu.edu



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