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Scholars will gather at ECU to examine humor in many forms during the upcoming HumorFest, Nov. 1 - 3 . (Photo by Erica Plouffe Lazure)

ECU's 'First-Ever' HumorFest Examines Humor as Art

By Erica Plouffe Lazure

Q: What do a Romanian public radio poet, a Jewish cowboy, a Southern Lady novelist have in common?

A: They are the keynote speakers for the East Carolina University’s HumorFest, Nov. 1 through Nov. 3.

Author and N.C. native Jill McCorkle, poet Andrei Codrescu, and rock-n-roller Texas novelist Kinky Friedman will speak at ECU as part of the HumorFest-ivities. Codrescu and dancer Claire Porter will present “Stretching Muscles and Words” at 7:15 p.m., Nov. 1. Friedman will talk satire and sing at 8 p.m., Nov. 2. A luncheon with McCorkle is set for 12:30 p.m., Nov. 3.

“Humor as an art form rarely attracts the serious attention it deserves,” said Tom Douglass, an ECU professor of English who is co-chairing the event. “The East Carolina HumorFest intends to correct this omission and provide performers, scholars, and students an opportunity to enjoy humor in all of its forms.”

More than a dozen panels with scholars from five countries will present papers humor and all its forms including: taboo and Southern literature, political satire, medieval and renaissance humor, satire in popular culture, humor and healing, among others.

Joke tellers, punsters, instigators, musicians, improv masters, impersonators, dancers, jesters, actors, village idiots and storytellers – who also happen to be ECU students – will participate in “Joke-Offs” planned during the weekend.
A campus-wide cream pie-toss will wrap up events Saturday, Nov. 3.

Tickets for HumorFest are available at the ECU Box Office at 1-800-ECU-ARTS or 328-4788, or by visiting Individual tickets for each event are $15 in advance/$20 at the door. Full conference access is free for ECU students, $25 for students of other campuses, $80 for all others (includes a ticket to each keynote event).

Collections for the first-ever National Registry of Laughter have already begun. Those interested in becoming part of the growing body of laughs are asked to e-mail a five to 20-second MP3 recording of laughter to Provide the NAME of the laugher, the DATE laughed, and the LOCATION. Visit: to listen in on a few good laughs.

“The registry will be a human record of vocal joy,” Douglass said. “The best presence we have in the world is a good laugh. You know you’re present when you’re laughing.”

The HumorFest is a partnership of ECU’s English department, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences and the Office of Co-Curricular Programs and Cultural Outreach. Visit for more information.

This page originally appeared in the October 26, 2007 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at