In her own words:
Comedy Studies is essentially a “semester abroad” at The Second City, the premier center for comedy in the nation. The approach to teaching is based on identifying the common quality of their most successful alumni. What sets them apart from other funny people? The answer is comedy cross-training.
They created a solid persona that translates from the stage to the screen and back again; they possess a consistency in their performance and voice. The goal isn’t to create a second Stephen Colbert. The program strives to nurture the first Bridget Welch. The goal of Comedy Studies is to foster versatility in young people.
A Comedy Studies student might typically identify as more of a writer, but a rigorous semester in acting, improv, and standup courses helps them find their comedic voice and makes them much more job-ready for a competitive industry. The four-class Comedy Studies semester covers all comedy bases. I took courses on voice and movement, comedy history, improvisation, and sketch writing. As a journalism major and member of the Burpee’s improv troupe at Denison, I went into the program with some comfort and confidence in those particular comic lanes.
But standup? Being alone on stage with my own experiences and vulnerabilities? That was not so comfortable. Being forced (in the most supportive way) to put myself out there and truly practice “comedy cross-training” transformed me as a performer and as a person.
I typically judge my wacky ideas harshly, and question the value of what I have to say. Comedy Studies teaches students that their voices are worth hearing. Every person has a compelling comic lens and experiences that set their art apart. They encouraged us to get our ideas out of our heads and into the open, whether through improv —where there is no “no” — or through other specialized, project-based classes. If you want to do this work successfully, you have to put it on paper, and then, on its feet. Comedy is like any other kind of human work: it needs to move from theoretical to active.
It’s serious work to make an audience laugh — or sneer! Comedy teaches a lot of life lessons, and one of them is to trust your authentic self and give that self a voice. No one can read your mind; so speak it. It’s worth the risk, even if your reward is simply learning more about yourself. Comedy — and through it, self-knowledge — is part of what makes us human.