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Comedy Arts

Students in the Comedy Arts Module will explore the field of comedy in fields of television, film, theatre, stand-up, prose, performance and sketch. Through the development of their comedic voice, characters, structure and timing, students will learn the traits of well-built comedy. By delving into comedy’s past and present while also looking toward the future of comedy, students will discover ways comedy can create a lasting and unique impact upon its audience. By adapting their own individual approaches toward comedy, the module will seek to enhance the students’ inherent “sense of humor” while also building confidence in the creation of specific comedic content. 

Learning Objectives

  • Develop knowledge of fundamental ideas relevant to comedy with mastery of comedic principals and approaches from historical perspective and modern practices.
  • Discuss and apply comedic principals into their own chosen expression or art form, understanding the basics of content and outcome.
  • Understand the different applications of a range of comedic practices and how each works within varying modes of creation.
  • Discovery of individual voice and style and how personal comedic point-of-view is used to create unique and engaging comedic content.

Courses

Comedy Arts Course Requirements

Co-Curriculars

Required Community Building Activities: 

In order to develop relationships with the vibrant comedy community in Chicago, students will attend at least three (3) lectures, comedy shows or events, plays, and/or comedy festivals around Chicago. 

Recommended opportunities for application and practice on campus: 

There are multiple opportunities to learn about and create comedy through various student groups and activities: 

  • Northwestern Sketch Comedy Television (NSTV): NSTV is the University’s premier sketch comedy group. Comprised of over sixty students, NSTV students write, direct, shoot, edit, promote, and act in their own sketches throughout the year. In addition to making content for the Internet and our annual premiere, NSTV produces two live comedy shows on campus, organizes educational comedy workshops/speaker events, and produces an annual video for Dance Marathon, Northwestern’s largest philanthropic organization. 
  • Mee-Ow (or The Mee-Ow Show): founded at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois in 1974 by student producers Paul Warshauer and Josh Lazar. The first original Mee-Ow Show, “Just in Time,” was the first performance in the newly constructed McCormick Auditorium in Norris University Center. The show has been a staple of the Northwestern theatre and comedy scene ever since. 
  • The Titanic Players: Established in 1994, the group has four improv groups on campus, arranged according to years of experience together. In addition to their monthly show, they have opened for MadTV, performed improvisation live on WNUR radio, and are prevalent on Northwestern’s student television network. In addition to their improv groups, they have a 3 level improv training center to teach improv classes on campus. 
  • Northwestern University Comedy Forum: an Associated Student Government recognized Student group created to give aspiring comedians an outlet for performance. Founded in 2010, Comedy Forum meets weekly, bringing different types of comedians together from Northwestern’s campus to develop and perform material and prepare them for professional Stand-Up opportunities. Comedy Forum hosts Stand Up Showcases each month of the primary school year with comedians of all years. 
  • Out Da Box: one of Northwestern’s most popular Campus Sketch Comedy and Improv groups. For the past thirty-one years, they have worked to bring comedy to all Northwestern Students – of all campuses, majors, and backgrounds. Their focus is one pushing boundaries, specifying comedy to the campus socially and politically. 
  • Blackout: The Blackout is Northwestern’s Late Night Comedy Show. Once a quarter, a crew of over 100 students works with talent in the Northwestern community to create a live variety show in the style of traditional late night television. The show has one student host each year, allowing each fall a new host to enter and inspire new games, bits, guests, and segments. Created in December 2015, The Blackout is now an official Northwestern student group with support from the Radio/Television/Film Department. 

Recommended opportunities for projects, practica, and internships off campus: 

Comedy Arts students seeking off-campus experiences and possible internships will find nearby Chicago to be at the heart of comedy training and performance. Venerated establishments such as The Second City, The Annoyance Theatre, iO Chicago, Zanies Comedy Club and ComedySportz offer multiple classes, shows and events that showcase their styles and philosophies. Find stand-up comedy at venues such as The Up Comedy Club and The Laugh Factory, or look to CIC, The Playground, Laugh Out Loud, and The Bughouse for improv and sketch shows every night of the week. 

Watch classics and contemporary comedic plays at well-known theatres such as Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company and The Goodman Theatre (just to name a few). Discount tickets are often available for performances by calling the box office, and module faculty often have contacts within these organizations. Venues also often look for volunteers to help out behind-the-scenes with ushering and social media, and contacting them regarding this kind of work can offer further insight into the creation and practice of comedy. 

Capstone

  • Compilation of a portfolio that highlights the students’ progress through the module. The portfolio should include two (2) full-length projects and two (2) short-form projects, totaling four (4) projects taken from the categories listed below:
    • Full-length projects:
      • An original 30-minute half hour comedy script.
      • A 30-minute spec script of a comedy that is currently on the air.
      • A comedic full-length play, screenplay or hour-long teleplay.
    • Short-form projects:
      • A performance of a chosen comedic monologue, comedic performance piece or a solid five minute stand-up set.
      • Five strong sketches and/or desk material for late night comedy submissions.
      • A ten-minute sample of original comedic web content.
  • A five (5) page critical exploration of the module courses taken and how an aspect or aspects of the comedic arts is connected to the societal impact of comedy performance and/or writing.
  • Three (3) one-page responses regarding the three (3) community building activities they attended or participated in (see Extracurriculars) and how the activities taught them more about the genre and/or inspired their own work in some way.

Sponsoring Department: Radio/Television/Film

Module Coordinator: Ariel Stess

Instructional Committee: Eliza Bent, Stephen Cone, Erik Gernand, Rebecca Gilman, Cindy Gold, David Tolchinsky and Mimi White

Module Advisor: Freda Love Smith

How to Enroll 

Enrollment in the Module: 

This module is open to all NU undergraduates. 

Students wishing to join the Comedy Arts module should complete or be currently enrolled in pre-requisite course RTVF 260-0 Foundations of Screenwriting and be in their sophomore year.  Please download the application form, print a copy of the form, and complete it. All students who submit an application should arrange an appointment with Kalisha Cornett, who is the module advisor, by calling 847-491-7214. No other application materials are required. The purposes of the meeting with the module advisor include confirming the applicant’s eligibility, reviewing requirements of the module, and answering the student’s questions about the module.