two men with glasses and a woman
Event Information
A Brief History of Satire
Curious Minds Speaker Series
Thursday, Jun 1, 2023 1:00 PM
Journey from 19th Century England to the wild days of Rob Ford's Toronto with Curious Minds veteran Adam Nayman, examining the style and substance of contemporary satire.
Event Pricing
Reserved Seating Ticket - $13.27

Are you an Hot Docs Member?

Ticket Selection
Ticket Availability
Venue Seating Chart

Thursdays, May 25 - June 29, 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM 

Pro-rated registration for the remainder of the course is available at the box office. Single classes go on sale the week prior: $15 (Members from $10)

Masking is strongly recommended. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to

In this new course from film critic and Curious Minds veteran Adam Nayman (Politics at the Movies, Pop Music at the Movies), we’ll examine the style and substance of contemporary satire, with examples drawn from film, television and literature and placed within a larger context of social and political subversion. As we journey from 19th Century England to Cold War-era Hollywood to the wild days of Rob Ford's Toronto, these illustrated lectures, with vibrant slides and clips, will survey some of the most iconic examples of this great political and pop-cultural tradition—including landmark works like Dr. Strangelove, Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, Roger and Me and more.

Led by Adam Nayman, a film critic and lecturer based in Toronto, and the author of several acclaimed books, including The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together, and Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks. Adam is a popular lecturer at the University of Toronto, the Chang School and the Miles Nadal JCC.

<< Return to courses  

May 25: Let Them Eat Children

An introduction to satirical terms and traditions, with special emphasis on Ancient Greece and 19th Century England (with a coda in the present day). Meet the father of deadpan, Anglo-Irish writer Jonathan Swift, and the brilliant critics and thinkers who laid the foundation for what we now think of as satire, including Ambrose Bierce, Dorothy Parker and Mark Twain.

June 1: The Martians are Coming

Orson Welles' War of the Worlds heralds World War II, and anticipates other examples of sci-fi satire waiting on the other side of prosperity. Learn how the famous broadcast, based on a satirical novel about British imperialism, threw the world into panic, and also how Stanley Kubrick learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.

June 8: Fake News

The satirical newscast format is devised and perfected on both sides of the Atlantic during the 1960s and 70s. We’ll examine the pioneering BBC series That Was The Week That Was and Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, before making excursions into the gonzo journalism of Hunter S Thompson and the social commentary of Joan Didion.

June 15: Punching Up

A look at the impact and influence of Michael Moore as well as the apocalyptic literary visions of Tom Wolfe, Bret Easton Ellis and Otessa Mosfegh. We’ll debate Moore’s claim that satire can’t be debated–“you either know it or you don’t.”

June 22: The Death of Irony?

9/11 reshapes the landscape and language of contemporary satirical comedy, with Jon Stewart in ascendance; elsewhere, vanguard humor migrates online via YouTube. How is satire changing in the age of the internet?

June 29: Funny or Die

In our series finale, Adam surveys the dismal legacy of Trump-era satire—as spearheaded by director Adam McKay—and speculates on the future of the form, with cameos by Nathan Fielder, Jordan Peele and Philomena Cunk. What does ‘satirical’ even mean when reality’s so absurd?

Film Info