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Using Comedy Bits as Hooks in Secondary ELA

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Comedic sketches, parodies, and stand-up comedy are a big part of the entertainment that our students tend to consume, yet it’s tricky to incorporate these genres into the classroom due to the sometimes inappropriate nature of the material. It can be time consuming to search through the endless content on YouTube to find one video related to your lesson that has genuine humour while retaining school appropriateness. I would know, because that’s exactly what I did… In an attempt to reinforce learning or provide hooks that relate to the pop culture that the kids are actually into, here is a list of classroom-appropriate comedy bits for secondary ELA. 

The Three Little Pigs Like You’ve Never Heard Before - John Branyan

(9:29 min – start @1:07)

This stand-up routine is from Dry Bar Comedy, which promotes itself as family-friendly, and “funny for everyone,” so you can rest assured that using stand-up bits from here will be appropriate for the classroom. In this particular piece, Branyan reflects on how Shakespeare had an active vocabulary of 54,000 words, whereas people today have an active vocabulary of 3,000 words. He then re-words “The Three Little Pigs” in Shakespearean English and muses on how 16th century children had a better vocabulary than he does.

Mad Lib Theatre with Kristen Wiig

(6:13 min)

This is an ongoing bit on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon. If you look up “Mad Lib Theatre” you’ll find many more videos with other celebrities, but I chose this one with Kristin Wiig because it doesn’t stray from PG-13 content. This bit is a take on the classic Mad Libs game, where Jimmy and his guest act out a scene using their “mad lib script.” Hilarity ensues, but it is also a fun hook for grammar work or teaching parts of speech.

5-Second Summaries with Jim Parsons

(4:34 min)

Another recurring bit on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, here, he and Jim Parsons race the clock to summarize the plot of famous movies. There are other videos of this bit with different celebrities, but again, I chose this one because Parsons keeps things appropriate. This would make for a fun introduction to summary writing and finding the main idea in a text.

Kid Theatre with Tom Hanks

(7:10 min)

Apparently The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon has a lot of ELA inspired games. This one called “Kid Theatre” is an amusing bit where children write a script for a movie based solely on the title. In this particular video, Tom Hanks and Fallon read child-written scripts for his movie Bridge of Spies. This would make a for a fun introduction to any creative writing lesson. 

Word Sneak with Steve Carell

(5:57 min)

In this Tonight Show bit, Jimmy Fallon and his guest try to incorporate secret words casually into conversation. This particular clip with Steve Carell is fun and school appropriate. This would be a good video to reinforce any lesson on word choice and diction.

Plagiarism - SNL

(6:07 min)

This classic Saturday Night Live sketch shows a teacher confronting his students about their various plagiarism offences on their essays. It is completely appropriate for school, and teaches a good lesson about plagiarism in a humorous way.

Hunger Games Press Conference - SNL

(5:23 min)

In this Saturday Night Live sketch, Jennifer Lawrence plays her Hunger Games character, Katniss, during a press conference after the games have ended. This would be a perfect addition to any Hunger Games novel study to add some humour and entertainment.

The Group Hopper - SNL

(3:47 min)

This Saturday Night Live Digital Short is a dystopian YA novel parody with references to The Maze Runner, Divergent, The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter. It’s an entertaining look at this genre of literature and film, and would fit nicely into a novel study unit for any of these books.

Romeo and Juliet - Reduced Shakespeare Company

(13:05 min)

The Reduced Shakespeare Company is a good option for school appropriate comedy sketches of famous Shakespeare plays. This particular one is for Romeo and Juliet and features two actors acting out all of the parts in the play to comedic effect.

“Weird Al” Yankovic - Word Crimes

(3:45 min)

Okay, hear me out! Yes, this is a “Weird Al” Yankovic parody of the song Blurred Lines, titled Word Crimes. To a high school student it’s definitely a cringey take on grammar rules, but I think if you play it for your students knowing you’re being cheesy and cringey, it works. At the very least, they won’t commit these word crimes anymore, for fear that you will play the song again.

Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator - Tim Urban TED Talk

(14:03 min)

This TED Talk by Tim Urban isn’t related to ELA class exclusively. It could really work for any class, but definitely hits home with ELA students procrastinating on essays and other written assignments. You may not think of comedy when you hear TED Talk, but Urban breaks down what goes on in the mind of a procrastinator in a hilarious way that your students will relate to and respond to. It was actually one of my students who showed me this video, so there you go!

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