With the start of the fall semester quickly approaching, college students across the country are beginning the mad dash to join campus clubs and organizations. For those interested in comedy, college offers a vast array of opportunities, from satire groups to improv teams to sketch. However, many of these groups require applications to join, and sometimes you’ll need to do an audition or interview.
I wrote for my university’s satirical paper all four years. For two of those, I was the Editor in Chief. Then, my senior year I took a step back and served as the recruitment chair. So, I’ve earned my ethos here, as I’ve read hundreds of applications over the last few years.
While I think that I can provide useful advice, I (of course) can only speak to experiences at my college, so these tips and tricks are not a guaranteed one-way ticket to a coveted writer spot. But, nevertheless, I’m here to HELP you. For free! Get on board or get out!
Before You Apply
- Try to find your school’s paper at the org fair and attend all the meetings you can! Those meetings will hopefully give you a better feel for the organization (which will help you write your application), and will also allow the recruiters to start recognizing your name. This goes a long way, especially when the recruiters are dealing with many applications.
- Learn who the recruiters are. These are most likely members of the executive board or some group of editors, but try to figure out who is reading your application.
- Learn the classic jokes. What do I mean, “classic jokes?” Most colleges have some running jokes among students that are pretty easy to pick up on. For example, my school had lots of running jokes about squirrels and how every student was from Chicago. Keep an ear out for those during your first few weeks on campus, as they will come into play later!
- Observe! Most papers will ask you to pitch a joke or two, so start writing down some things you notice on campus that are funny and could make a good joke!
- Know when to be funny and when to be serious. This is not as hard as it seems. When you are filling out the application, don’t try to crack wise when they ask your name or email. Those are things the paper needs, and trying to be funny there will just get your application thrown out. However, most of the rest of the application is free for you to do whatever you want!
- Let your voice shine through. What makes you a unique asset to the campus or paper? What point of view do you have? Keep it consistent throughout the entire application.
- Don’t go for the classic, easy jokes. Remember before how I told you to note the “classic jokes,” on your campus? Don’t use them. If they are common on your campus, most likely the satirical paper has heard them before. If you think you have a new hot take on one of these subjects, I would still warn you to be cautious. I will always rather hear a totally original joke that maybe does not land as strong, but shows you are creative, than one I’ve heard some version of a million times. And I’m not alone! You’ll hear this often from folks who led a campus group.
- Follow directions. As basic as it sounds, you would be amazed how many people just make up their own little application! The questions the paper asks are not optional, and they probably ask them for a reason.
- PROOFREAD!!! Y’all…please proofread. Please. For me. For your mom. For all of us. No one wants to sift through your unreadable jumble of typos, especially if the copy editor is reading your application. Show us that you can write well and edit thoughtfully. This goes a long way!
- Prepare for the hot seat. When I was applying to be on my school’s paper, the interview was by far the hardest part. It’s one thing to be funny, but as a writer (not an improvisation-er), doing it on my feet was very stressful. However, now that I have been on the other side, I truly can say that the interview is less about being funny than it is about being personable! Be yourself. If you’re a good fit, they’ll see that!
- Your willingness to participate is key! This is a comedy group. The interview probably won’t be serious, besides maybe a question or two. If your interviewers start doing a bit, jump in and go with it! We want to see that you can engage and riff with us, no matter how stupid the bit may be. (As they say on Gilmore Girls, “Answer the pepperoni.”) This may even give you a taste of what the writers’ room is like.
Other (Very Generous) Tips
- Please, don’t be an asshole. This may sound simple but the number of snarky comments or straight-up bullying I received from applicants while they were going through recruitment was astonishing. The recruiters are deciding if you get in or not. Please, just… be nice to them. And maybe in general? Just advice, pal!
- Don’t send hundreds of emails during the recruitment process. If you have one or two questions, that is totally fine and the recruiters are absolutely willing to help! That is what they’re here for, after all! But sending scores of emails, asking for feedback on your application before you submit it, or continually asking when you will hear back is annoying and will most likely not get you hired. (Looking for more tips on when to reach out? GOLD has you covered.)
- Be a fan! Most likely, either in the written application or interview, you will be asked why you want to be a part of the paper. It’s ok to be serious here and stroke our egos a little bit. I know that I always wanted students who were excited to write for us because that enthusiasm made them better staff members overall!
- If you are not accepted, ask for feedback on your application. Sending out rejections was always the hardest part of my job as Editor in Chief. If you are rejected, be polite about it. You’re tough! It is not personal, it is almost always truly just a numbers thing. However, I was always happy to provide feedback on applications when people asked me for it! And, for the record, applying again later always went a long way in my eyes, especially if I could see that you incorporated my feedback into your next app!
Getting involved in a college satirical paper is a great way to make friends on campus and learn more about your school (our writers’ room always had the juiciest gossip)! While the application process can seem intimidating, and may even discourage someone from applying, I promise that it is worth it!
My time on the satire paper was the highlight of my college experience, and I am so glad that I took the leap! Maybe you’ll end up like me, and come into college set on a career in law, and come out of college as a proud woman in comedy! (Who writes editorials for GOLD??)
Madison Hitchcock spent her childhood wanting to become a detective. Once she got to college, she knew she needed to pick a more practical career, so she chose…comedy? Despite her clear lack of judgment, she graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2022 and is now searching for “a job that pays real money.”