As the mercurial weather continues to make fools of the greater Georgetown community, the designated fools of Georgetown — those groups dedicated to the art of humor and the science of the laugh — are intent on increasing levity’s on-campus presence.

During the Georgetown Improv Association’s first open practice last Saturday, a dozen students filled the Village C Practice Room to play a few warm-up games that focused on quick thinking rather than intentional humor. After these initial drills, the attendees broke off into groups for their first skit — a comical portrayal of an advertising team pitching marketing strategies during a boardroom meeting.

The Georgetown Improv Association plans to hold tryouts and open practices once a month in order to create more opportunities for students to take part in skits and comedy programs on campus.

“Part of the hope of starting to offer open practices … is that we’ll kind of get a bunch of funny people at Georgetown in the same room and maybe something else will take off,” Georgetown Improv Association Executive Producer Emlyn Crenshaw (COL ’15) said. “It’s sad that Georgetown doesn’t have more outlets for people who want to be funny or want to joke around because there’s certainly plenty of funny people.”

Few organized student groups at Georgetown focus on humor. Besides the nine-member Improv Association, an online comedy magazine called the Georgetown Heckler is the only comedy-based student group on campus. The Heckler publishes satirical articles about campus and national news; it has just five regular contributors.

Although student participation in comedy groups is limited, student interest is high. Last semester, over 50 students auditioned for four spots in the Improv Association.

“We had this wide array of really hilarious people, and we had to say no to most of them and it was kind of heartbreaking,” Crenshaw said.

According to Crenshaw, students have expressed interest in creating an offshoot comedy sketch group, in which students would pre-write skits that they would later perform, but such a group has yet to be developed.

The Heckler has expanded its outreach in order to attract new writers and increased readership. Since taking control of the magazine at the start of last year, current Editor-in-Chief Henry Thaler (COL ’14) has recruited new writers and begun to publish articles to the website more frequently.

“People have heard that The Heckler existed, they’ve wanted to send funny articles. So if they wanted to, I just said, ‘Sure, come aboard,’” Thaler said.

Joe Luther (COL ’16), a member of the Improv Association and a writer for The Heckler, plans to continue this expansion when he takes over as editor-in-chief next semester. Luther said that he hopes to continue to attract readers using The Heckler’s Twitter account. He also plans to recruit incoming freshmen to write online content.

“I think that there’s a really great, receptive audience here, and I think people really like comedy and laughter stuff and we just need to find ways to get it to them,” Luther said.

For many students involved with comedy on campus, Georgetown’s professional and politically oriented atmosphere serves as an inspiration for humor.

“Georgetown has tropes that you can poke at occasionally, like fun stereotypes, whether it’s that it’s politically oriented or preppy or student-run or career-focused,” Thaler said.

The Heckler used last month’s Georgetown University Student Association presidential campaign to fuel a revival of its Twitter feed. After satirically live-tweeting the presidential debate, The Heckler’s Twitter account gained nearly 300 followers. Currently, the account has over 440 followers.

“If you take everything from the right angle, you can make fun of anything,” Luther said. “Things like that are pretty right for satire, especially because people are so honed into them here and so into them. The more you are interested in something, the more you care about it, the easier it is to laugh at it.”

For student comedy groups, Georgetown’s reputation for professionalism has done more than serve as the butt of self-deprecating jokes.

Georgetown Teaching Faculty of Management Rebecca Heino invited members of the Improv Association to share tips and strategies about improvisation with a business class earlier this semester.

“She had us come into her class and teach some improv games to her class in order to get them more comfortable with being in front of people, public speaking, being aware of their surroundings — things that are really important when you’re in a career that is based on your interactions with people, like business,” Improv Association member Thomas Moakley (SFS ’17) said.

Despite the limited range of opportunities for students to participate in humor-related activities on campus, many Georgetown alumni have made their careers out of comedy. Nick Kroll (COL ’01), who stars in the FX sitcom “The League,” as well as in his own Comedy Central sketch show “The Kroll Show,” John Mulaney (COL ’04), who works as a standup comedian and a writer for “Saturday Night Live” and Mike Birbiglia (COL ’00), who performs standup comedy and has written and produced two humorous off-Broadway one-man shows, are some of the more well-known comedic performers to emerge from the on-campus humor scene.

“We have a weird number of really funny people, which is weird because Georgetown isn’t known as being a place where you go if you want to be a standup comedian,” Crenshaw said.

 

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