Best college campuses for women in comedy
So you’re deciding where to go to college. Sure, you did pretty well on your SATs. Your application is full of juicy extracurriculars (like the GOLD ComedyTM workshop!) You even got that coveted recommendation letter from Mr. Baldwin, the hip young English professor who loves edgy backwards chair sitting. Now you just need to figure out which schools to apply to.
And you’re smart. You’ve got your priorities straight. You know that the most important thing in your college decision making process isn’t the education, the location, or even the food. It’s the comedy scene. And not just for anyone: for you. Choosing a school is like choosing a romantic partner: you’re probably going to be stuck with them for about four years, so they better make you laugh. And have a good credit score.
So we made you this list! It’s not exhaustive, which is exciting. So many schools now have thriving comedy scenes where women and diversity reign supreme. Here are just some of the best.
Oh, Brown–a school that makes headlines for being more liberal than Bernie Sanders at a San Francisco hemp convention. Unsurprisingly, Brown has been taking some huge steps towards diversifying the members of its comedy scene. In 2015, the school welcomed its first all-female group in the form of “Skorts,” a musical sketch comedy troupe. (We’d love to show you some of their stuff, but an Internet search for “brown skorts” took us to the JCPenney homepage.)
Boasting three improv troupes (Starla and Sons, Improvidence and Comic Sans), two sketch comedy groups (Out of Bounds and Skorts), and Brown Stand Up Comics, Brown has no shortage of options. If performance isn’t your jam., Brown also has two written humor publications, the Brown Noser and the Brown Jug
Located in the heart of Windy City and improv Mecca Chicago, Columbia College has produced comedy juggernauts like Aidy Bryant, Lena Waithe, and even the legendary Phyllis Diller!
Columbia College Comedy
In addition to having a number of awesome improv troupes where women make up a large portion of the group, the school is home to one of the flagship “Comedy Studies” programs that actually allows students to pursue a degree in funny business! It also doesn’t hurt that one of their improv troupes, Cat Booty, won this year’s College Improv Tournament.
Tucked away in the heart of downtown Boston, Emerson College pumps out more comedians than the Wayans family: names like Bill Burr, David Cross, Laura Kightlinger, Jay Leno, Andrea Martin, Tess Rafferty, Iliza Shlesinger, Steven Wright, and the late, beloved Harris Wittels.
As of 2015, Emerson offers a killer BFA program in Comedic Arts that is sure to produce some comedy heavyweights down the line. Apart from the academic opportunities, Emerson is home to numerous other groups including SWOMO, Inside Jokes, Stroopwafel, This is Pathetic, Police Geese, and more.
University of Pennsylvania
Sure, Ben Franklin was a genius. But could he deliver a 1-minute monologue with enough material for a full 20-minute set? Probably not.
That’s where Penn’s comedy scene comes in. Without A Net is currently Penn’s flagship improv troupe but there’s an emerging women’s comedy scene that’s got us super excited. The all-women sketch group Bloomers now hosts the annual LaughtHERfest, an awesome day-long program that celebrates women in comedy. The festival has hosted other awesome college troupes like Columbia, Brown, and even big names likes Vanessa Bayer, Michelle Wolf, and our very own Lynn Harris!
New York is often cited as the standup capital of the world. So of course it stands to reason that New York’s own University has a killer comedy scene. Groups like Dangerbox and Hammerkatz have produced some major talent like Rachel Bloom, Donald Glover, and Fran Gillespie.
But NYU’s newest troupe, Bechdel Test, is paving the way for a women’s scene to develop. Founder of the group and Tisch student Meghan Sullivan told the NYU News that, “There is a stigma around female jokes that they have to be one thing or another. Well, they do not.” We couldn’t agree with you more, Meghan.
Growing up in nearby Jacksonville, Florida, I knew Savannah, Georgia was famous for two things: ghosts and peaches. Maybe even a few ghost peaches. Who knows. Never in my life did I think Savannah would be known for its college improv scene. But SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) proved me wrong.
The school was home to 6Chix, a groundbreaking group in the college improv scene. In 2015, 6Chix entered the College Improv Tournament as the first-ever all women group. 6Chix advanced to the finals that year and forever changed the gender landscape of CIT.
Granted, Wellesley has a bit of a head start in the feminist department (being an all- women’s school and all). But that certainly doesn’t diminish the amazing and thriving comedy scene the women of Wellesley have created. Dead Serious (pictured below rocking some serious denim) has been bringing the laughs to Wellesley for almost two decades.
Located in Massachusetts, Wellesley has produced some pretty great, and often funny, women including Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and Nora Ephron. Perhaps our next Secretary of State will be one of the jean-clad fashionistas above.
As a three-time participant in the College Improv Tournament, I can confidently say that there’s room for improvement in the female college comedy scene. A majority of the troupes that perform at the Tournament are mostly, if not all men. In my experience, women in college are MUCH more wary of trying improv or standup than men, citing shyness or “not being funny enough.” Well they’re wrong! While being shy is totally normal and fine, good comedy is all about being yourself and knowing that your genuine self can be funny. And there’s no better time to find your yourself than in your college years!
Looking for a chance to connect with other funny women in your area? Check out these festivals: Boston’s Women in Comedy Festival, Portland’s All Jane No Dick Comedy Festival, the Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, and Austin’s Ladies Are Funny Festival.
CARSEN SMITH (intern, branding and content) performs standup and improv in New York City. She co-created the improvised cooking show “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” which ran at Nashville’s Third Coast Comedy Club. @carsenasmith