In a time where students are getting blamed for everything from economic recession to missing traffic cones and shopping trolleys at weekends (some accusations are more justified than others) there is one industry that stands by students. Comedy as an entity holds the hands of students like an oddly proud parent or, more accurately, like their amusingly embarrassed offspring. This is because modern comedy bore a lot of its roots in the silly ideas generated in the hazy and crazy nights in student unions or conversations held in the kitchen come living area come bathroom that you would find in student shared accommodation. It is through the modern day comedy legends such as Stephen Fry, David Mitchell and Rowan Atkinson (to name a few!) that students can stake their claim to the shared parenthood of modern comedy. All these household names all began their careers as those pesky cone stealing, economy ruining students- brought together by societies such as the Cambridge Footlights or the Oxford Revue.
As someone who has spent the entirety of his university life dedicated to comedy thanks to my universities comedy society I feel quite passionate about the need for these groups and the role they play in the wider community. Comedy, as an industry, can be bitter and competitive. As a newcomer you could find yourself feeling unwelcome as your very presence could pose a threat to your embittered colleagues whom you were hoping to call friends. Mix the comedy industry with a university society however, and you find a wonderful sense of community that you may otherwise never receive.
This is, of course, a sweeping generalisation but the positive impact that both comedy and students have on one another cannot be ignored. Stand up is a lonely game. You perform alone and are forced to be independent to achieve your potential. With a university society, each member is working hard to make the group as good as it can be. You find yourself absorbed into a comforting and helpful family full of support and social anxiety issues. Plus, student have less to lose, they are living off a student loan and doing comedy as a hobby. They haven’t had a chance to lose sight of the joy that performing gives them. Each gig ends with pats on the back and constructive feedback. They haven’t been subjected to having the passion and perseverance beat out of them by and old man in the back of a pub banging a gong or waving a glow stick to signal the end of their precious stage time.
Student comedy has expanded vastly since Oxford and Cambridge kicked it all off. There are student Comedy groups all over the country. When I was running the De Montfort University society I went as far as to have a map of the country covered in post-it notes signalling where other societies were and the distance and travel time from DMU. With hindsight, however, it is difficult to work out whether this was due to my love of student comedy, my love of maps or my love of adhesive stationary. For now I’ll go with all of the above. But its expansion is a testament to the important role it plays in the industry. One of the biggest comedy competitions in the country is the chortle student comedy competition which is a competition where you will have the most friendly and supportive chats with your “rivals” before the gig. A comedy society gives a performer the tools they need to improve and the right attitude about the bohemian nature of such a creative industry. This comes as a recommendation. Interested in comedy? Join a comedy society, in an ironic twist it may be time to start taking student comedy seriously.
By David Murphy