American University hires comedian-in-residence

These ladies are breaking new ground at American University as they explore the impact of comedy on social change. Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018 (Kellye Lynn/ABC7)

For years, Caty Borum Chattoo has explored the impact of comedy on social change.

"We're faced with poverty, hunger, illness, discrimination and sometimes it can be really difficult for people who think differently to come together to talk about these issues," said Borum Chattoo, the director of the American University Center for Media and Social Impact.

Now, the communications strategist, who once worked with famed producer Norman Lear, is engaged in an initiative at American called "The Laughter Effect."

"Comedy is one of these unique cultural forces that allow people who think differently to come together," Borum Chattoo said.

In an effort to expand her research, Borum Chattoo has hired the university's first comedian-in-residence: Bethany Hall.

"There's so much comedy that makes you feel a little sadder when you walk out the room and I really want to create content that makes people feel a little more hopeful," Hall said.

The writer and performer currently appears on truTV's "The Chris Gethard Show" and formerly worked on the sitcom "30 Rock."

In her new role at American, she, Borum Chattoo, and students will create sketches, videos and documentaries, all of which will focus on comedy and social justice.

"Hopefully it's hilarious first and then also a little bit unifying after that," Hall said.

A fellowship from the Atlantic Philanthropies is funding Hall's position at American University.

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