Caty Borum Chattoo is Executive Director of the Center for Media & Social Impact, an innovation lab and research center, and professor at the American University School of Communication in Washington, D.C. She is an award-winning TV and film producer, executive, and scholar working at the intersection of documentary, comedy, democracy, and social justice. 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, was published by University of California Press (2020). Her documentary book, Story Movements: How Documentaries Empower People and Inspire Social Change, published by Oxford University Press (2020), was distributed as an audio book by Audible and recognized with the 2021 Broadcast Education Association Book Award.
In 2019, she co-created and launched, in partnership with cultural strategy group Moore + Associates and Comedy Central, the Yes, And Laughter Lab, a creative incubator of comedy for social justice, establishing robust partnerships across the entertainment industry, including Netflix, NBC Universal, CBS Viacom, Comedy Central, and many others. Also in 2019, she launched the Comedy ThinkTanks program, which brings together professional comedians and social justice organizations to co-create comedy for public engagement in social challenges, in collaborations with leading social justice organizations including Color of Change, Hip Hop Caucus, Caring Across Generations, National Domestic Workers Alliance, and more.
Her forthcoming book, under contract with NYU Press, takes readers into the stories and research behind the scenes of incubating and producing comedy for social justice, in collaboration with the entertainment industry and civil society organizations. The book, titled The Revolution Will Be Hilarious: Comedy for Social Change and Civic Power, is expected in late 2022.
As a producer, her films and TV programs have aired internationally and nationally on the Sundance Channel, Pivot, NDTV (India), Link TV, KCET, DirectTV and theatrically. She has produced two documentary feature films (Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005) and The After Party (2011)), a TV documentary and transmedia series (Stand Up Planet, starring Hasan Minhaj from The Daily Show (2014), a multi-part documentary TV series focused on global poverty (ViewChange (2010-2011), a seven-part environmental justice documentary TV series (Sierra Club Chronicles (2007), and PSA campaigns designed for social change on issues ranging from global poverty to climate change to HIV.
Previously, Borum Chattoo was senior vice president in the social marketing (social/behavior change) practice group at FleishmanHillard International Communications in Washington, D.C., where she directed and served on the senior leadership team that won the communication industry’s highest honor, the Silver Anvil for Public Service. In Los Angeles, she was a longtime collaborator with legendary TV producer and philanthropist/activist Norman Lear as a philanthropy director and producer. She also served as the program officer in the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Entertainment Media & Public Health program, where she managed HIV-awareness partnership program production, TV specials and PSA campaigns with MTV and BET; project director at the Center for Media Education; and fellow in civic journalism at The Philadelphia Inquirer.
In the U.S. and around the world, she is a featured speaker and thought-leader on the topics of documentary storytelling, comedy, communication, and social justice. at leading academic conferences (International Communication Association, National Communication Association, University Film & Video Association), professional social-change conferences (Skoll World Forum, TEDx, Frank Conference for Social Change), international film festivals and convenings (SXSW, Tribeca Film Festival, AFI DOCS, DOC NYC, European Documentary Network, Doc Impact Academy Netherlands, International Documentary Association’s Getting Real) and other professional gatherings. 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 serves on the Board of Directors of three leading media-serving organizations: The Peabody Awards, Kartemquin Films, and Working Films.
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