For College Student Comedians, Laughter Comes with Learning

25 June, 2019

At a comedy night at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, members of the school's Stand-up Comedy club bring lots of laughter to their classmates.

They give funny speeches, tell jokes and make humorous body movements.

These college student comedians may feel unsure of themselves at first. But the experience is highly enjoyable. Their humor entertains and helps ease the stress of crowds of busy, young people.

Yet club member Ariella Shua says comedy is serious work. The students write all their own material. Then, in weekly club meetings, they try out that material.

"Whoever is reading, we read all of the material, and then we would go joke by joke and see what works and what doesn't," Shua told VOA. "So, it starts as an individual project for yourself and becomes a group effort."

Shua joined the club last year. She says she has become a better observer of what is going on around her ever since. She says she does not go anywhere without bringing something on which she can take notes.

"Whenever I just have a thought in my head that seems like, ‘Oh, this is strange,' or when I see something or overhear someone saying something in the library, I just write it down," Shua explained. "Later, when I'm trying to write my own set, I go walk through that ... to see if there is anything in there that I can use."

Every school wants their students to perform as best they can in their studies. But colleges and universities across the United States urge their students to explore their abilities and develop interests beyond their field of study. Joining an on-campus club is a good way to do that.

Comedy Club president Nicholas Scandura finds that writing is one of the many skills he has developed since joining the club.

"Writing jokes is really fun," he said. "It takes a lot of critical thinking."

The club gives its members a sense of community. When they meet, they share funny experiences, tell jokes and laugh.

"It's just a nice, relaxing break," Scandura said.

Over the past ten years, stand-up comedy clubs have become common on college campuses in America. He said now everyone wants to do it because the culture of stand-up has gotten a lot of media attention and become more popular.

Last year, Harry Kuperstein joined the club and discovered it was a natural fit. Noticing the funny qualities of different situations improved his way of looking at the world. Becoming an active member also helped him work on the future skills he will need as a medical doctor.

"Talking to patients as a doctor; I think that ... having jokes ready to go might help smooth these interactions and make you a better public speaker," he said.

Club member Alex Hecksher Gomes studies computer science. He thanks the club for helping him develop his own style and learn some secrets of writing good comedy.

"Not always tell the truth. Sometimes, it's funny to go after your imagination," he said. "Also, don't always go with your first idea. I definitely thought some things that I said were funny, and then looked back. And where I got to with the joke was a lot funnier than when I started."

Despite the group meetings, rewrites and rehearsals, some ideas just are not funny.

Club member Benjamin Monteagudo said performing in front of a group of students does not mean comedians will not receive strong criticism. Last year, they came up with an idea to keep the audience involved and get their opinions.

"We called it ‘Tomato Show,' where if you were performing very badly on stage, we just let the audience throw tomatoes at us to kind of roll with the joke," he said. "So, we spent our entire budget on a big box of foam tomatoes. There were 200 to 300 of them. We gave them to the audience, and it was the best show ever."

I'm ­Pete Musto.

Faisa Elmasry reported this story for VOA News. Pete Musto adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor. We want to hear from you. How do young people express humor in your country? How common are comedy performances at universities in your country? Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

comedyn. things that are done and said to make an audience laugh

joke(s) – n. something said or done to cause laughter

stressn. a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life or work

campusn. the area and buildings around a university, college, or school

relaxingadj. helping you to rest and to feel less tense, worried, or nervous

interaction(s) – n. exchanges where people talk or do things together

rehearsal(s) – n. an event at which a person or group does an activity, such as singing, dancing, or actin, again and again in order to prepare for a public performance

audiencen. the people who attend a performance

tomatoesn. round, soft, red fruit that are eaten raw or cooked and that is often used in salads, sandwiches and sauces

foamn. a soft material that is used to make many products