Laughter has been long recognized as "the best medicine" -- medieval surgeons cracked jokes to distract their anesthesia-free patients from the pain, and Freud argued that humor released negative psychic energy.
But what role does comedy have in "serious culture"? How has that role evolved, from Shakespeare's mechanicals to Steptoe and Son and beyond? Dickens' "streaky bacon" approach alternated comedy and drama -- but should they even be regarded as separate genres any more when a character like Tony Soprano terrifies us and makes us laugh in equal measure? And why is it said that dying is easy, but comedy is hard?
The RSA gathers together a panel of leading writers and producers from both sides of the Atlantic to explore these questions and many more.
Jesse Armstrong is one of the co-creators of Channel 4's "Peep Show," along with Sam Bain. He also co-wrote the BBC Four comedy "The Thick of It" and was one of the writers on series 1 and 2 of the BBC Radio 4 sketch show "That Mitchell and Webb Sound" (2003 & 2005) and the BBC Two sketch show "That Mitchell and Webb Look." He also wrote with Bain for the film "Magicians," which also stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb, the main actors of "Peep Show," with whom Armstrong and Bain have worked on many projects.
He co-wrote "In The Loop" alongside Armando Iannucci, Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche, which was nominated for an Oscar in 2010 Best Adapted Screenplay. It also won Best Screenplay at the Evening Standard British Film Awards. He also wrote "Four Lions" along with Sam Bain and Chris Morris.
"Peep Show" won a BAFTA for best Situation Comedy in 2008.
Armstrong also writes a column for The Guardian, Malcolm Tucker's election briefing - as dictated to Jesse Armstrong.
Sam Bain is one of the co-creators (with Jesse Armstrong) of Channel 4's "Peep Show," which won a BAFTA for best Situation Comedy in 2008. He was also one of the writers of two series of the BBC Radio 4 sketch show "That Mitchell and Webb Sound" (2003 & 2005) and the BBC Two sketch show "That Mitchell and Webb Look." He also provided additional material for episode one of the BBC Four TV show "The Thick of It." He co-wrote BBC1's "The Old Guys" with Jesse Armstrong.
He wrote the novel Yours Truly, Pierre Stone, published by I.M.P.Fiction in 2002 and is a graduate of Manchester University, where he met Jesse Armstrong.
Sam Bain, along with Jesse Armstrong again, co-wrote "Four Lions" with Chris Morris, who is known predominantly for writing and starring in "The Day Today" and "Brasseye." The film was directed by Chris Morris and premiered at the 2010 Sundance film festival.
Caryn Mandabach is an Emmy Award-winning U.S. TV comedy producer of ground breaking shows such as "The Cosby Show," "Roseanne," "3rd Rock from the Sun," "That 70s Show" and, most recently, "Nurse Jackie."
Simon Nye is an comic television writer, best known for creating the hit sitcom "Men Behaving Badly."
Ralph Simon is regarded as a founder in the modern Mobile Entertainment Industry.
Simon co-founded the independent Zomba Group of music companies (now a subsidiary of Sony Music Entertainment) with Clive Calder in the 1970s. In the mid-90s, he was Executive Vice President of Capitol Records and Blue Note Records in Hollywood and started EMI Music's global New Media division. He started Yourmobile (later renamed Moviso), the first ring tone company in the Americas, Europe, UK, Australia and Africa, in 1997.
In 1998 Simon predicted that, "Mobile phones would become the indispensable voice/social networking and music companion for consumers and their increasing mobile lifestyles." He worked on convincing United States music publishers to grant the very first ring tone rights. This resulted in the dubbing of Simon as "The Father of the Ring Tone."
Mobile Entertainment magazine has named him as one of the world's Top 50 executives in Mobile Entertainment three times, in 2005, 2006, and 2008. In 2007, he received its special award for Outstanding Contribution to the Global Mobile Entertainment Industry.
Simon heads the Mobilium Advisory Group. He is the founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Mobile Entertainment Forum â€“ Americas.