Caty Borum Chattoo is Executive 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 Assistant Professor at the American University School of Communication in Washington, D.C. She is an award-winning documentary producer, scholar, professor and strategist working at the intersection of social change communication, documentary and entertainment storytelling. Her book about the role of mediated comedy in social change, A Comedian and An Activist Walk Into a Bar: The Serious Role of Comedy in Social Justice, with co-author Lauren Feldman, is forthcoming from University of California Press. Her documentary book, Story Movements: How Documentaries Empower People and Inspire Social Change, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.
In 2017, she launched The Laughter Effect, a research and creative initiative that examines the role of comedy in social change and produces co-created comedy with social justice organizations. In 2019, she co-created and launched, with Moore + Associates, the Yes, And Laughter Lab, a creative incubator of comedy for social good, in partnership with Comedy Central. In 2016, she launched Story Movements, a biennial national convening and research initiative at the intersection of civic storytelling and social change. As a documentary producer, her films and TV programs have aired internationally and nationally on the Sundance Channel, Pivot, NDTV (India), Link TV, KCET, DirectTV and theatrically. Her creative and scholarly work has been funded by leading global and national philanthropies, include the MacArthur Foundation, Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Open Society Foundations, Atlantic Philanthropies, Univision, and many more. In the U.S. and around the world, she is a featured speaker and workshop leader on the intersection of storytelling, communication, and social justice. A former philanthropy director and producer with comedy producer Norman Lear, program officer at the Kaiser Family Foundation, and senior vice-president in social change communication at global communications agency FleishmanHillard, her peer-reviewed research on the intersection of storytelling, creativity and social change is featured in leading journals in communication and the humanities, including Journal of Communication; Journalism; Media, Culture & Society; Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media; Mass Communication and Society; HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research, and more. She also serves on the Board of Directors of three leading organizations working at the intersection of entertainment storytelling and social justice: The Peabody Awards, Kartemquin Films, and Working Films. Borum Chattoo holds a graduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication.