How Comedy Can Be a Tool for Social Justice

agosto 24, 2022


How do comedy and social impact relate? Do they relate at all, when they seem to exist at opposite ends of the spectrum? Can humor be an effective tool in social justice work? The answer is, yes! With a background in stand-up, May Steinberg, Associate Campaign Manager at Purpose, shares her insights on exactly how comedy can be a tool for social justice. 

Why comedy is the perfect medium for social justice

1. Good comedy punches up, not down

2. Laughter is unifying and communal

3. Comedy and satire are often used as tools to explain big concepts

4. Laughter literally improves health and wellbeing

5. Comedy is subversive and can be a way to hide progressive ideas in hostile environments

6. Comedy reveals hidden truths in our society in a palatable way

How to tap into your inner-wit & incorporate it into your work

1. Go BIG to land small

Push your idea to the limit right off the bat. You can always scale or tighten an idea down- it’s harder to do the opposite.

2. Don’t put too much pressure on it 

Clever or funny ideas don’t always come immediately, and forcing ideas out within a moment can be frustrating. Keep your mind clear, and the idea will come.

3. Consume culture

An understanding of your audience’s culture and references will help you create “wittier” campaigns and copy. You can more easily create connections and articulate ideas in an alternative, creative way.

4. Give yourself space to bomb

In a brainstorming session, it’s okay to make suggestions that may need some workshopping. Expressing ideas aloud can strengthen them as you think more deeply. It also opens up space for collaboration! 

5. Don’t fall into the “But I’m not funny” excuse

Not everything that is funny has to be setup/punchline. There are creative ways in which you can weave ideas together to be eye-catching or make an impact. Cleverness, above all, is what engages people.

6. Engage in play, regularly

Incorporating play into your life helps stimulate creative parts of your brain and make you feel happier, more confident and less inhibited. So, when you need to come up with a campaign, it’s more likely that you will come up with clever ideas.

How to integrate play into your life

What is play? Play IS silly and unselfconscious. Play IS NOT restrictive or unproductive.

“Play is not neatly defined in terms of any single characteristic; instead,
it involves a constellation of characteristics, which have to do with the motives or mental framework underlying the observed behavior.”
– Dr. Peter Gray

It’s important to channel your inner child and find moments to engage in play throughout your day. During your work day, try scheduling time (even 5 minutes) for brief moment of play. Whether it’s taking time to color a picture or fit in a quick dance session, these moments can really help especially when things are going rough or it’s harder to concentrate. 

May Steinberg Associate Campaign Manager
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