Krefting brings comedy to the classroom

Posted by MacKenna Lewis

Professor Rebecca Krefting of the American Studies department takes comedy seriously. While working towards her doctorate in American Studies at the University of Maryland, this new professor focused her studies on humor and laughter.

This semester, she's bringing humor to the classroom as she teaches Themes in American Culture: Diversity in the United States and two sections of Introduction to American Studies.

Skidmore News: Where are you from originally?

Rebecca Krefting: I'm from a lot of places. I was born in Germany. My dad was in the military, so I was born on a military base and then we moved around to Arizona, to Alabama, back to Germany and then back to Alabama again. My education path has taken me to Ohio, the Maryland and DC area and here. So a lot of different places, but if I had to isolate where my home is, it would be Alabama. That's home.

SN: Has it been a big adjustment to move from the South to upstate New York?

Krefting: It has. I love that sense of community that exists in the South, but there's also a conservatism that is so strong that it became difficult to be who I was there. Coming out in the South can be kind of difficult. It feels different to live in places like Ohio, Maryland and here. It feels more freeing.

SN: How do you like Skidmore so far?

Krefting: I hope it doesn't sound cliché, but I love it here. I love the atmosphere. The community here is so nice and everyone has been so helpful. All the students are friendly, they're engaged and they're interested in the curriculum, so it's kind of picture perfect.

SN: How does your background in stand-up comedy and improvisational acting play into your studies and your teaching style?

Krefting: Well it informs it a lot. Not only does it inform my teaching style because I joke a lot in the classroom, but I also try to deliver a lecture or present a discussion in an entertaining way so that we're all enjoying it and we're getting engaged in the topic.

I actually focus on humor when I do my own research, so humor is absolutely infused in so many different aspects of my life – my personality, my teaching and my research.

SN: You also have degrees in English, Psychology and Women's Studies. How did you become interested in American Studies?

Krefting: Well the only center for Humor Studies in the U.S. is housed at the University of Maryland, in the American Studies Department.

I grew to love American Studies. I really began to embrace what American Studies is about. I think it combines the best of all the disciplines. Not that it's superior, but I think it does a good job of pulling from the different approaches and ideologies.

SN: Have you incorporated your background in Women's Studies into your Diversity in the United States course?

Krefting: Yes, definitely. In any course where you're looking at diversity, you're going to have issues come up about categories of identity.

The way that the U.S. frames difference is by race and sexuality and religion.

Although I don't necessarily agree with how the world has cordoned all these different identity categories, I think it's important that we talk about how the U.S. is addressing them.

SN: Can you tell me about the book you're currently working on?

Krefting: Well I'm turning my dissertation into a book, and my dissertation looks at stand up comedy, but it looks at a particular kind of comedy.

I call it charged humor. It's humor that's used by the author or performer to mobilize, to activate, to inform, to educate, in some way to charge his or her audience with information about how to make their lives better or about how to make the world a better place.

I looked at specific comics who have activist agendas on stage, and I also looked at the young people who were in my youth comic theater program.

I talked about how they use comedy as a voice of dissent, critique and analysis of the lives that they're living, in a world where kids aren't usually turned to for information or advice about how to change the world we live in.

SN: Do you think you'll be performing stand-up comedy anytime in the near future, perhaps at Skidmore?

Krefting: I don't know. I usually work it into presentations, so I'll probably go and speak with Skidmore Pride Alliance and we'll talk about queer comedy and I'll do some of my jokes for them, but I don't know if I will seek out an official venue. I'm reserving all the jokes for the classroom.

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