Thursday, January 17, 2008

FAC 101: Humoring Colleagues

So I'm at this big faculty hoop-de-doo hobnobbing with colleagues I haven't seen since Finals Week when I keep encountering the same annoying conversation. It happens whenever a faculty member asks me what I've been doing over break and I mention that I'm teaching a J-term class, and then my colleague wants to know what kind of class I'm teaching, and when I say "Humor Writing," that's when the expression occurs: the cynical eye-roll accompanied by the little knowing nod, the sort of expression I would expect to encounter if I admitted to teaching Piece O' Cake 101 or Introduction to Loafing.

"It's a demanding course," I insists.

"But are you learning any good jokes?"

"It's not about jokes," I insist with a sigh. "It's about writing."

"Right, but how hard can it be? Anyone can be funny."

This is where I start to lose patience. "Good humor writing is good writing," I say, but then the eye-rolling starts again.

This conversation was annoying the first time, but by the third time, I realized I was fighting a losing battle. I may as well admit it: I'm teaching a course that few of my colleagues consider serious academic work. Those colleagues who consider me a lightweight teaching a laughable course would, no doubt, hold me in higher regard if I claimed to have spent the entire break watching daytime television while organizing my recipe files. "I made it as far as the Eggplant section before I got distracted by Oprah's search for the best pizza in Chicago," I'll say, "but at least I've got a meaningful project to tackle over Spring Break."

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