Oct 30, 2011

Talking about comedy

Students watch a few short clips and match them with different comedy genres. This video activity can be used to supplement a speaking activity in Innovations Advanced

Innovations were the first series of textbooks that truly embraced the principles of the Lexical Approach (LA). While other books have started including collocation boxes and introducing some multi-word units, Innovations (published by Thomson Heinle or what is now known as Cengage) was the first one to embody the spirit of the LA focusing on chunks, formulaic expressions and dealing with aspects of grammar relevant to the spoken language which are rarely featured in other textbooks influenced by the written grammar of English.

Innovations Upper-Intermediate is by far my favourite. (I may be biased here because upper-int. is my favourite level to teach). Not only does it have engaging, thought-provoking articles and refreshing topics (Women in boxing, rave parties and hair styles), it introduces the lexis that will make your mouth water and that you won’t find in any other coursebook:  “We get on like a house on fire”, “I looked like death warmed up”, “They went out boozing” and “Go jump in the river!”... My second favourite is probably the Pre-Intermediate one. What other textbook at this level introduces learners to such   grammar points as the Service Passive (You should have it X-rayed) or Present Simple after Hope (I hope you have a good time in Switzerland next week)

However, I’ve been recently using the Advanced book with a small group of students and have come up with and collected a few supplementary activities which I‘d like to share with you here. Here is a simple idea that can liven up Activity 6 on page 99 - Talking about Comedy.

Show your students several video clips (trailers or actual scenes from films) which illustrate different comedy subgenres. Here is a playlist I've used with my students:

Or follow the link below:

Ask students to have their books open and match each clip with a description from the activity in the book. Tell them to compare their answers in pairs and then hold a whole class discussion.


  1. it’s a spoof horror film
  2. slapstick humour
  3. the humour in it is quite dark
  4. puerile lavatorial humour
  5. a sitcom
  6. it’s not laugh-out-loud funny. Most of the humour is quite subtle.
  7. a political satire
  8. it’s full of all these really corny jokes
  9. some moments of real unintentional humour
Please note that the answers are largely a matter of opinion and other answers are possible too. The activity is aimed to provoke discussion, which you can facilitate by providing some useful language on the board, for example:

I don’t know what’s so funny about it; it’s just plain stupid.
Funny? It was outright hilarious!
I couldn't make out what they were saying.
I’ve actually seen this film.
If you like _____________ it should be up your street.

You can also use this activity to revise some of the language from Unit 13 Books, films and music.

Image credit
Ben Turpin & Charlie Chaplin by John McNab
Licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

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