Comedy ThinkTanks in Action

Since early 2019, CMSI has piloted the Comedy ThinkTanks with some of the most effective, inspiring social justice and civic engagement organizations in the country: Caring Across Generations (elevating caregivers), IllumiNative (addressing the invisibility of Native American peoples), Color of Change (interrogating racial justice and discrimination), and Doc Society and Exposure Labs Climate Change Story Lab (turning the tide of climate change and environmental justice). Notably, for each organization and its core social issue, engaging effectively and memorably with the public – to shape positive public opinion and encourage a favorable climate for public policy – is a crucial concern and priority. 

Since then, each ThinkTank has stimulated comedy that has already been released, is currently circulating the entertainment marketplace or has been leveraged by partner organizations as public engagement strategies. The ideas that stem from the ThinkTanks run the gamut from cartoons with Emily Flake of The New Yorker to a children’s television show with the renowned production company Irony Point. 

Want to partner with us on a ThinkTank? Contact us on cmsimpact (at) gmail (dot) com

Here are some ThinkTanks in action: 

Paid Leave for All campaign

The issue of paid family and medical leave in the United States is urgent, positioned at a tipping point in terms of its success in state-level legislation. The U.S. is the only developed country in the world without universal paid leave for workers. However, there is meaningful traction leading to legislation in many states and the District of Columbia. A network of leading grassroots organizations, led by Family Values @ Work is the engine behind the scenes of state-level advocacy. The network understands the need to engage the culture as a strategy to continue to build public support for paid family leave, leading to successful legislative advocacy.

Due to the pandemic in 2020, we shifted to a new genre of video making, the intentionally low-fi and self-filmed, Forward Facing Comedy, which has been made famous this year while the world was under lock down. These videos performed remarkably online: shared by legendary feminists Gloria Steinem and Irin Carmon and some receiving nearly a half million views within the first days of release. Each video organically generated conversations on the importance of valuing care to a broader audience. The videos were then shared by a cohort of grassroot organizers and tagged and tied into the Paid Leave for All Campaign with the slogan, “Laugh. Rage. Act.” and #LaughRageAct.

Hip Hop Caucus

Ain’t Your Mama’s Heat Wave is a stand-up comedy special from the frontlines of the climate crisis. It’s filmed in the St. Paul’s district of Norfolk, VA, a Black public housing community that is being redeveloped because of climate flooding, sea-level rise, and a legacy of racist urban policies. In this docu-comedy, four Black millennial stand-up comedians, hailing from Virginia Beach, Atlanta, Chicago, and Ohio, take the stage to “make the climate crisis funny” in front of a St. Paul’s audience who are at risk for a Hurricane Katrina-like disaster and many of whom are currently being displaced from their homes. Hip Hop Caucus and CMSI began working together in the summer of 2019 to co-create a climate justice entertainment project that centered around comedians of color, launched with our Comedy ThinkTanks co-creation writers’ room. Caty Borum Chattoo and Bethany Hall are credited Executive Producers and Producers on the film.