In conjunction with the 26th Annual Comedy Festival, The Onion announces Rise Up: Comedy for Change from June 2-4. With support from The Open Society Foundations, the day-and-a-half event will bring together experts, change-makers, creatives, and comedians to explore the role comedy can play in creating social and political change in an increasingly polarized world.  An opening reception will be held Friday, June 2; panels, performances, and debates will be held during the day on Saturday, June 3 and the morning of Sunday, June 4.

As part of the event, Caty Borum Chattoo, director of the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University (CMSI), will facilitate workshops for several satirists and comedians from the US and Latin America to create new comedy projects through media that will later be published on a Univision or Fusion Media Group platform later in the year. CMSI's new project, The Laughter Effect, provides insights about how comedy works to create social change.

Space at ‘Rise Up: Comedy for Change’ is limited and invitation only. For more information or to request an invitation, email

Saturday, June 3rd 2017

8:30-9:00 am            Breakfast served

9:00-9:20 am            Welcome and Overview
Welcome by The Onion
                                    Introductions/Context by Rise Up, The Open Society Foundations and Omri Marcus, VP Content and Editor-in-                                      Chief of premium channels at Ananey Communications


9:20 am-9:45 am     Why & How Does Comedy Work in Social Justice?

                                   Presenter: Caty Borum Chattoo, Founder of The Laughter Effect Project and Director of the Center for Media                                       & Social Impact at American University School of Communication


9:45-10:45 am          Block #1: Comedians and Communities                                                                                                                    

                                   Performance by: Felonious Munk, Stand-Up Comic                                                                                                                                        Panel/Discussion: Anne Libera, Director of Comedy Studies and the Comedy Writing and Performance at                                             Columbia College Chicago (Moderator) / Felonious Munk, Comedian and Social Commentator / Jenny                                                   Raymond, Executive Director of the Harnisch Foundation and Rebecca Griffin, Associate Director at California                                       Programs for NARAL Pro-Choice America


10:45 -11:00             Break


11:00-12:00 pm       Block #2: Comedy around the World

                                 Performance by: Las Reinas Chulas, Mexican Cabaret Company     
                                 Panel/Discussion: Pedro Abramovay, Regional Director for Latin America & the Caribbean, The Open Society                                      Foundations (Moderator) / Las Reinas Chulas, Mexican Cabaret Company / Veronica Ochoa y Felipe Vergara,                                      Creators of Corruptour, Theater group from Colombia / Omri Marcus, VP Content and Editor-in-Chief of premium                                  channels at Ananey Communications

12:00-1:00 pm         Lunch and Networking

1:00-1:45 pm            Q&A with Bassem Youssef, led by Fran Hoepfner


1:45-2:45 pm            Block #3: Comedy’s Amplifying Effect: Comedy & Journalism
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Performance by: Jena Friedman, Stand-up comedian, actor, writer and filmmaker
                                  Panel/Discussion: Cole Goins, Director of Community Engagement at The Center for Investigative Reporting                                         (moderator), Grace Parra, Comedian/ Maricela Rodriguez, Senior Communications Program                                                                     Manager at The California Endowment / Jena Friedman, Stand-up comedian, actor, writer and filmmaker / 

2:45-3:45 pm            Block #4: Comedy in Entertainment                              

                                   Performance by: Martin Morrow, Stand-Up Comedian
                                   Panel/Discussion: Kristel Muciño, Director of Communications at WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the                                          Americas (Moderator) Gary “Gaz” and Mark Alazraki, Alazraki Entertainment / Rick Scott, Vice President of                                            Grants and Philanthropy at Comic Relief Inc. / Aimie Billon, Vice President, Entertainment and Creative                                                  Community Engagement at Propper Daley

3:45-4:45 pm            Block #5: The Role of Funny Fake News in an Era of Not-Funny Fake News

                                    Performance by: James Fisher
                                    Panel/Discussion: Ben Berkley, Executive Editor at The Onion (Moderator )/ Steve Etheridge, Senior Writer at                                       ClickHole / Roberto Kaz, Creator of The Piauí Herald in Brazil / Callie Crossley, Host/Executive Editor of “Under                                     the Radar with Callie Crossley Show”

4:45-5:00 pm            Wrap-Up by The Onion and Rise Up

Segments & Topics

Introduction/Overview:  Why & How Does Comedy Work in Social Justice? 

Caty Borum Chattoo, director of the Center for Media & Social Impact and project director for unprecedented examination of comedy and social change, The Laughter Effect, goes deep into how and why comedy appeals are effective in social change, what we know from research and examples across multiple disciplines, and around the world, along with a look at the huge global ecosystem of comedy in place to highlight and bring awareness (and change) to social justice challenges. This includes an introduction to the typology of comedy formats for social change (scripted comedy, satire news, sketch, and stand-up) and what works for each, along with cautionary notes about how to not approach comedy with social change efforts.

Block 1: Comedians and Communities

In this block we will explore the effect comedians play in their communities, with a special focus on the work that has been already been done in Chicago, briefly touching on what makes the comedic landscape in Chicago different than other cities.


Block 2: Comedy around the World

We will discuss the role comedy places in influencing change in different parts of the world, such as Mexico, Colombia and Israel, and how cultural norms play a role in creating and shaping different comedy formats.


Block 3: Comedy’s Amplifying Effect: Comedy & Journalism

Although they share an attention-getting role in the information economy, comedy and journalism, in fact, can work together to amplify awareness about social challenges. Comedy and journalism together is a powerful force, and comedy’s frames of hope and optimism are memorable and empathy-creating, when done right. In this discussion, we learn from both research about how comedy and journalism work together, as well as examples of doing it in practice.


Block 4: Comedy in Entertainment

Popular entertainment comedies can be powerful means for social change.  Developing strong storylines, characters and other messaging elements into different forms of entertainment -- such as TV sitcoms, movies, theater and staged comedy -- can have weigh heavily on audiences to change their attitudes, minds or behaviors on various social issues. 


Block 5: The Role of Funny Fake News in an Era of Not-Funny Fake News

In many examples, fake news sets a media agenda and becomes an official source of information (examples: Funny or Die and the Affordable Care Act). In this discussion, panelists discuss the role of fake news, how it works, how it might be marshalled purposefully around key social justice issues moving forward.

Sunday, June 4th, 2017

Comedy Collaborators is a yearlong project between Rise Up, The Open Society Foundations, American University’s Center for Media and Social Impact and The Onion to create a community of comedians, experts, advocates, media-makers and influencers interested in working (and learning) together about how to use comedy for social change.    

The primary vehicle for collaboration is via four comedy projects with individuals in Latin America and the United States designed to have impact on specific social issues. The objectives of the Comedy Collaborators workshop are three-fold: for groups to share different approaches of how to incorporate social issues into their comedy; discuss research about what works, what doesn’t work when trying to move audiences through comedy; and to begin to outline some ideas for the projects (topics, etc.).

The workshop will be divided into two sections – the morning and afternoon sessions.


9:30-10:00 am                      Breakfast


10:00-10:15 am                    Welcome, overview and introductions by Rise Up, OSF and Grace Parra

                                              Objectives for the morning, introductions to major facilitators


10:15-11:00 am                     Caty Borum Chattoo - Comedy & Social Change: What works? What doesn’t?

·                                             Highlights of what we know:

                                              •   Comedy, not weighed down by facts (“restoration of gravity”)

                                              •    Let the comedy be the comedy, respect the comics

                                              •    Powerful, not powerless, as target of jokes

                                              •   Attention, awareness, sharing…not sure yet about behavior change

                                              •   Recommendations based on research

·                                             •   Case studies/examples (“when it works” examples)


11:00-12:00 pm                   Strange Bedfellows                 

                                             Part 1: The Elephant in the Room: Comics & Social Justice/Issue Experts Work Differently

                                             •      How comedians work

                                            •      How issue experts & NGOs work on campaigns

                                            •      How foundations work

                                           Part 2: Facilitated open group conversation: How Can We Work Together? What’s Helpful? What’s Not


Afternoon Session  

Incubating Comedy & Social Change Projects in Latin America


The afternoon session is focused specifically on the four groups participating in the collaborator – and discussing their groups, their approaches to incorporating issues into their work, and very early thinking about potential direction for the projects moving forward. This session is only for these groups and their advisory teams. 


12:45-1:15 pm                   Warming Up – Grace Parra

                                          •     Discuss Morning Highlights & Insights

                                          •      Objectives for the Afternoon


1:15-1:45 pm                     Introductions – Felipe Cala, OSF

                                         ·      Introduce the three comedy groups (based on interview Qs, plus their own intros)

                                         ·      Introduce organizational leaders from the three countries


1:45-2:45 pm                  Country-Specific Teams (comedians & NGO leaders from Mexico, Colombia, Brazil)

                                         •      Issue briefings from select NGO leaders in country

                                         •      Comedians’ questions & answers, brainstorming ideas


2:45-3:00 pm                Overview of next steps


Jena Friedman is a stand-up comedian, actor, writer and filmmaker. She is currently a correspondent for National Geographic Explorer and has worked as a field producer at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and has written for Late Show with David Letterman. Her critically acclaimed stand up special, American Cunt, is now available on Seeso and Amazon

Bassem Youssef, dubbed the Jon Stewart of the Arab World, was the host of popular TV show AlBernameg which was the first of its kind political satire show in the Middle East. Originally a 5-minute show on YouTube, AlBernameg became the first online to TV conversion in the Middle East and the most watched show across the region with 30 million viewers every week.

Fran Hoepfner is a writer and comedian living in Chicago. She has worked for The Onion in various roles and jobs, including but not limited to editorial assistant, digital editor, writer for The A.V. Club, and head chef. She was named Chicago Magazine's Best Rising Comic in 2016.

Caty Borum Chattoo is Director of the Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI), an innovation lab and research center at American University that creates, showcases and studies media designed for social change; and Executive in Residence at the American University School of Communication in Washington, D.C. She is an award-winning communication strategist and documentary film/TV producer working at the intersection of social-change communication, documentary and entertainment storytelling.

Felonious Munk is a comedian, social commentator, and above average beardsman, currently based in Chicago. He appears regularly on The Nightly Show with Larry Wlimore on Comedy Central and at the legendary Second City in Chicago as co-creator, host, and writer for the groundbreaking "Afrofuturism" and Black Side of the Moon shows, the latter of which he was nominated for a Helen Hayes award.  

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Anne Libera studies and the Comedy Writing and Performance B.A. at Columbia College Chicago, a collaboration with The Second City and the first degree of its kind in the United States. 

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Pedro Abramovay is director of the Latin America Program and regional director of Latin America and the Caribbean at the Open Society Foundations.

Jenny Raymond is the Executive Director of the Harnisch Foundation  and for nearly two decades has been a leader in furthering the foundation’s mission to advance gender equality.

Rebecca Griffin is the Associate Director, California Programs for NARAL Pro-Choice America. Rebecca spearheads NARAL Pro-Choice America's proactive California legislative campaigns, communications and cultural organizing.

Martin Morrow is originally from Birmingham, AL where he started doing stand-up, improv, and belonged to an award-winning sketch/stand-up hybrid “Tubbi and Martin”. Martin has performed in clubs, colleges, and festivals all over the country and has worked with some of the top names in comedy including Tim Allen, Hannibal Buress, Amy Schumer, and Katt Williams.

Veronica Ochoa y Felipe Vergara, are the creators of Corruptour, a Theater group from Colombia. Corruptour is a montage that transcends traditional theater and also focuses on the figure of the murdered comedian [Colombian] Jaime Garzón.

Omri Marcus is VP Content and Editor-in-Chief of premium channels at Ananey Communications, Israel's leading multi-channel TV firm in Israel. He was also the founder and creative director of JJJ: Comedy for a Change - an international conference on the power of comedy to drive forward social change. 


Kristel Muciño is WOLA’s Director of Communications and a member of WOLA’s management team. She works with each of WOLA’s programs and experts to develop strategic communications and advocacy on particular issues and for the organization as a whole. She oversees digital strategy, multimedia projects, and media relations

Ben Berkley is the executive editor of The Onion and a founding editor of its sister site, ClickHole. He has been with America's Finest News Source since 2010. A native of Tempe, Arizona, Ben remains best known for his 3-year stint as Pope Gregory XVII in the early 1980s.

Steve Etheridge is a senior writer at ClickHole and a former writer for The Onion. He has also written for The New Yorker,, McSweeney’s, and many other outlets. He lives in Chicago.

Roberto Kaz is the creator of The Piauí Herald in Brazil which is a supplement to the Brazilian magazine, Piaui, and uses satirical news to speak about Brazilian and global reality.