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Joke’s on you. Educational comedy and the matter of accident prevention


Fr, 29/06/2018 – 17:45 bis 19:00


University of Amsterdam, Oudemanhuispoort Building, C1.05, Oudemanhuispoort 4-6, 1012 CN Amsterdam

Presentation by Joachim Schätz at the NECS Conference 2018

What is comedy’s place in educational film? While jocular commentary, cartoon graphics and slapstick intermezzi abound in instructional, informational and pedagogical films and videos until this day, comedy has not yet been explored much in the context of the educational moving image.

Does comedy remain extrinsic to the workings of educational film form, or is this form in some cases affected, changed by comedy and its volatile dynamics? And is comedy only a tactically employed carrot, or itself made part of processes of learning?

My paper develops some of the key questions for such a broader investigation – e.g., about comedy’s place in concepts of education, about the contested border terrain between film entertainment and education, and about comedy’s tactical uses and volatile dynamics – by tending to a subset of films designed for the purpose of accident prevention. Engaging audiences in accident prevention is a tricky proposition, making comedy a welcome resource for livening dry appeals to caution. Yet, as several examples can attest, involving comedy also complicates the already tricky balance (between showing and suggesting, admonishing and encouraging, simulation and general advice) that the psychology and pedagogy of accident prevention grappled with over the 20th century.

Slapstick flirts with disaster, rather than warning off it. Satire of imprudence risks alienating those it wants to address. In the case of Tödliches Alibi (Deadly Alibi, 1965), comedy is even used to toy with the standard iconographies and rules of accident prevention posters and films. It’s a radical gamble, comedy opening a gap in which a shrugging nihilism and an appeal for an internalized ethics of safety are hard to tell apart. Is comedy’s place in education that of displacement?

Veranstalter: NECS – European Network for Cinema and Media Studies, University of Amsterdam, Utrecht University