Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis




Holly Schreiber

Committee Members

Robert Glover, Liliana Herakova, Michael Socolow, Beth Staples

Graduation Year

May 2020

Publication Date

Spring 5-2020


From the Holocaust and slavery victims to medical professionals to firefighters, coping humor has been used throughout history even in the darkest of times. While it is common among victims of unfavorable situations, it is also utilized by late-night television shows to package the news of the day in a format that both addresses the issues and eases the emotions surrounding them. This thesis critically analyzes selected clips from late night shows and sketch comedy surrounding three different news events: Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate Confirmation Hearings, the Boston Marathon bombing, and Hurricane Sandy. By studying a political event, a domestic terrorist attack, and a natural disaster, this research examines the use and effects of coping humor across different types of events. In each chapter, the comedians studied employ humor tactics that respond to the needs and emotions of the audience. Whether used to distract, to vent, or to build connections, coping humor helps viewers grapple with current events. By easing the negativity surrounding the event, the comedians provide viewers with a space to safely digest and understand the news, acknowledge painful absurdities, and foster a feeling of community and connection.