Tips For Having Film Students Evaluate A Stand-Up Comedy Documentary

Film students may student many types of films during their studies at a university. It's worthwhile to have theme explore a variety of documentaries, too. Stand-up comedy documentaries bring something entirely different to the table than those that chronicle a tragedy or seek to unveil a secret. Follow these tips to help film students get the most out of evaluating and studying stand-up comedy documentaries:

Encourage Students to Seek a Deeper Meaning

A stand-up comedy documentary can be especially entertaining, but that doesn't mean that the director didn't have far deeper intentions. Everything from the pacing of the movie to the clips of comedy that the director chooses to include can make a deep statement. A political film that shows only jokes at one party's expense has a clear intention, but deeper meanings can be much more subtle.

Discuss the Merits of Stand-Up Comedy as an Art Form

Stand-up comedy is an art form of its own. Your students who are not familiar with the nuances of stand-up comedy may want to go to a few live stand-up comedy shows before evaluating such a documentary. If you have international students who may not know the medium well, go over stand-up comedy itself before watching the documentary.

Ask Open-Ended Questions Before and After the Film Viewing

Before showing your students the stand-up comedy documentary, ask them to consider their answers to some open-ended questions while watching the film. After the screening, follow up the exercise by asking those questions again and expecting students to share their answers. Some open-ended questions you may want to ask include:

  • What is your overall impression of the film?
  • Why do you think the director chose these particular stand-up comics for the movie?
  • If you've seen other films by the same director, do you see common themes or statements in this film and their other movies you've watched?
  • Was this a film made to be experienced at the cinema?
  • What did you love the most about the film?
  • Can you give me a logline that you would use to describe this film if you were the director?
  • What did you hate about the film?
  • How would you have done the film differently?
  • How does this film inspire you?
  • What was the main event in the film?
  • How did the editing impact the overall statement of the film?
  • What did you learn from the film?

Finally, keep in mind that each of your students may get something very different from watching the same documentary. That's the beauty of the medium of film sometimes. Directors may let the audience draw their own conclusions on the topic. Encourage free thought and never tell a student than an opinion is wrong. They may get the facts wrong, and their opinion may be formed from misinformation. However, the opinion itself is simply an opinion. 

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