Is That Funny?


On Friday, Oct. 2, the Cassandra Voss Center presented a talk called “That’s Not Funny!” at the Fort Howard Theater, a program that discussed humor, satire and sexual violence.

Presenter Joe Samalin, Senior Program Manager of Breakthrough Global Human Rights Organization, received a large audience of students. He opened his talk with a few jokes, but he used this light-hearted atmosphere to speak to the attendees on important and serious issues.

Turning the original topic on its head and asking “Is that funny?” brought a lot of important of concerns regarding appropriate and inappropriate humor to light.  From violence to racism to sexism, Samalin explained that, sometimes, jokes are not jokes.  He pointed out that there is often someone in the room who could be offended by such humor, even if the joke was not intended to hurt anyone.

“It was very informative,” said Beth Zampino ’19. “When he had us interact, it made everything seem more relatable and helped people understand better.  The talk was really good, well done, and really well received.”

Samalin, a New Yorker who now lives in Indiana, has a wide and varied background, with a résumé that includes jobs such as firefighter, EMT and archaeologist. However, his passion is protecting people from sexual violence; whether he is helping the victims, working with the people who commit the acts or partnering with others to stop the violence before it happens.

Through the Breakthrough organization, he focuses on working with men to prevent sexual violence against women. He also promotes the Campus Catalyst Program, which works with this issue and its place on college campuses. It trains students, specifically fraternity members, to make a difference on campuses in this way.

With his experience with the serious part of the subject matter, Samalin continued his talk by looking at the possible humorous ways to talk about violence and discrimination. There were clips from “How I Met Your Mother,” “Football Town Nights with Amy Schumer” and a video by Key and Peele. The group discussed the way each video approached sexism and sexual violence.  Sometimes, humor was used to speak out against violence, while other times it was not.

When asked why he chose to focus on the Breakthrough organization out of his diverse interests, Samalin replied that while “the other jobs were good and fun,” this was his passion.

The Cassandra Voss Center is presenting several other programs throughout the academic year, following its theme “Delight in the Fight.”

The concept for this theme is “disarming injustice with humor and joy” and will include other events that continue to talk about the use of humor in serious conversations.  The next presentation is called “You just tweeted WHAT?!: race, gender, & comedians in the digital age” and will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 11, at 3:00 p.m. in the CVC. For more information on future Cassandra Voss Center events, visit


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s