Image of Philip Scepanski

Contact Information

Academic School

School of Communication and the Arts


Lowell Thomas 243



(845) 575-3000 ext. 2393

Philip Scepanski

Assistant Professor of Media Arts


Philip Scepanski studies American television history and cultural theory. He has presented widely and published numerous articles and book chapters on topics related to television studies, collective trauma, and humor.

Professor Scepanski's book, Tragedy Plus Time: National Trauma and Television Comedy (forthcoming 2021 from University of Texas Press), examines the way television's most irreverent programming responds to our most serious moments. In doing so, it examines issues like how the television industry avoids and uses controversy in the name of ratings and profits, the ways in which playful comedy impacts popular memory of and emotional engagement with real-world events, and how comedy polices the boundaries of in-group/out-group identity with relation to ethnicity, religion, and political identity.


BS, Radio, Television, and Film, Northwestern University
MA, Film and Television, University of California, Los Angeles
PhD, Screen Cultures, Northwestern University

Research Interest/ Areas of Focus

Television, Cultural Studies, Critical Theory, American Studies, Affect, Comedy and Humor, Trauma

Selected Publications

Scepanski, Philip. Tragedy Plus Time: National Trauma and Television Comedy. Austin: University of Texas Press, forthcoming 2021.

Scepanski, Philip. “Comedy from the Intersections: Chris Rock on Class and Race.” In Taking a Stand: Contemporary Stand-up Comedians as Public Intellectuals, edited by Peter Kunze and Jared Champion. Jackson: Univesity Press of Mississippi, forthcoming.

Scepanski, Philip. “Conspicuous Morality: Very Special Episodes, The War on Drugs, and Broadcast Deregulation.” In Very Special Episodes: Televising Industrial and Social Change, edited by Jonathan Cohn and Jennifer Porst. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, forthcoming 2021.

Scepanski, Philip. “Blackness as Riot Control: Managing Civic Unrest Through Black Appeal Programming and Black Celebrity.” Television and New Media, December 31, 2020, 1–18.

Scepanski, Philip. “Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Layered Comedy.” In How to Watch Television, edited by Ethan Thompson and Jason Mittell, Second Edition. New York: New York University Press, 2020.

Scepanski, Philip. “Addiction, Abjection, and Humor: Craig Ferguson’s Confessional Stand-Up.” In The Dark Side of Stand-Up Comedy, edited by Patrice Oppliger and Eric Shouse. Studies in Comedy. London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2020.

Scepanski, Philip. “Retroactive Edits: 9/11, Television’s Popular Archive, and Shifting Popular Memory.” Television and New Media 20, no. 3 (2019): 294 - 310.

Scepanski, Philip. “Sacred Catastrophe, Profane Laughter: Family Guy’s Comedy in the Ritual of National Trauma.” In The Comedy Studies Reader, edited by Nick Marx and Matt Sienkiewicz, 33–44. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2018.

Scepanski, Philip. “Dummies and Demographics: Islamophobia as Market Differentiation in Post-9/11 Television Comedy.” In Taboo Comedy: Television and Controversial Humour, edited by Chiara Bucaria and Luca Barra, 119–38. London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2017.

Scepanski, Philip. “9/11, Television Comedy, and the Ideology of ‘National Trauma.’” In The Edges of Trauma: 150 Years of Art and Literature, edited by Alexandra Stara and Tamás Bényei. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014.

Selected Presentations

“Las Hurdes, Borat and the Ethics of Smugness”; MDOCS Forum: Laughing With Reality; Saratoga Springs, NY; June 9, 2019.

“‘Conspicuous Morality: The War on Drugs, Very Special Episodes, and Broadcast Deregulation in the 1980s”; Society for Cinema and Media Studies Annual Conference; Seattle, WA; March 14, 2019.

“Virtual Slapstick: Digital Technology, Threats to Identity, and Technophobic Comedy”; Humor in America Conference; Chicago, IL; July 13, 2018

“Something in a Lighter Vein: Parody and Affective History Across Borders”; National Cultures of Television Comedy Symposium; London, UK; November 17, 2017

“’Our Most Distinguished Guest’: Prospects of Mankind, Eleanor Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy;” The Society for Cinema and Media Studies Annual Conference; Chicago, IL; March 22, 2017.

“Prospects, Party, and Power: Eleanor Roosevelt at National Educational Television;” Film and History Conference; Milwaukee, WI; October 28, 2016.