Comedy on Campus

Whether it’s improv, sketch, magazines or web sites, comedy on college campuses is a hoot.

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Whether you love to laugh or love to make other people laugh, comedy is a great activity to get involved in during college.

Comedy troupes have become a fundamental part of campus life at most schools because it’s an interest that everyone shares. Who doesn’t like a good joke?

Many college comedy troupes achieve considerable success after school

Improv, Sketch, and Stand-Up: The Many Faces of Comedy

Comedy troupes are the main kind of comedic student organization you’ll encounter in college. Their performances are usually based on improvisation, an unscripted type of comedy that can either be in long-form (around 30 minutes) or short-form (10 minutes or less).

In short-form improv, the actors perform short scenes usually given to them on the spot by the audience. Long-form is more structured and interrelated, and is the preferred format for most professional troupes. Because of this, many college troupes, such as USC’s Second Nature Improv, use long-form in their performances.

Other troupes, such as Swarthmore College’s Boy Meets Tractor, use scripted scenes in their performances. This kind of comedy, known as sketch comedy, has been made popular by shows such as Saturday Night Live and Mad TV.

If you prefer going solo, stand-up comedy may be your game. The great thing about stand-up is that you have almost complete control over the performance. You can write, rehearse and fine-tune your set beforehand.

Many colleges also have comedy or humor-related magazines. Of all these, perhaps the most famous is the Harvard Lampoon. The magazine has nurtured many famous comedy writers including the writers of numerous TV comedies among them Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, and Seinfeld. The satirical publication The Onion was founded by Tim Keck and Chris Johnson while they were juniors at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

There are also websites devoted to humor that start on college campuses. Among the most famous of these is CollegeHumor.com founded by Ricky Van Veen and Josh Abramson while they were freshman at Wake Forest and the University of Richmond respectively.

Why Join?

Well, first of all, it’s fun. Comedy is a great way to meet friends, enjoy yourself, and blow-off steam in a low-stress environment. And while it may seem like all fun and games, comedy also builds some essential skills: teamwork, leadership, public speaking and creative thinking.

How to Get Involved

Admittance for comedy organizations usually occurs at the beginning of every semester. For example, Freudian Slip, Texas A&M’s improv troupe, accepts new members in September, January and May.

While the admission process varies, it almost always requires an audition. What this audition consists of will depend on the group, but you probably won’t have to do any preparation for it. However, some sketch comedy troupes, such as the University of Arizona’s Comedy Corner, will require a writing sample.

As for stand-up comedy, keep an eye out for competitions, festivals and open mic nights. If your school doesn’t offer these opportunities, the city or town it’s in probably does. Call some local comedy clubs to see what your options are.

Comedy Beyond College

Many college comedy troupes achieve considerable success after school. The most well-known example is Colgate University’s Broken Lizard, whose members went on to create popular films such as Super Troopers, Club Dread and Beerfest. A similar success story is The State, a group from NYU that had its own show on MTV in the 1990s. Members of The State have also starred in TV shows such as Party Down, Stella and Reno 911! More recently, the online sketch comedy group Derrick Comedy, also from NYU, produced a series of viral hits on YouTube. One of its members, Donald Glover, wrote for the NBC series 30 Rock, and can be seen as Troy Barnes on Community.

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