Comedy program gets standing ovation from College Magazine in recent ranking



Columbia’s tie-in with The Second City gives students the opportunity to take one semester at The Second City’s Training Center located at 1608 N. Wells St. 

By Campus Reporter

College Magazine rated Columbia the No. 1 college for aspiring comedians in the country in an Aug. 19 article, citing the college’s comedy department, wide range of classes and connections to The Second City, the well-known Chicago-based comedy club, theater and improvisation school.

Anne Libera, assistant professor in the Theatre Department and coordinator of Columbia’s comedy writing and performance major, said the college deserves the rating. 

She added that Columbia’s program allows students to collaborate with the Television, Cinema Art + Science and Business & Entrepreneurship departments, teaching them skills necessary for successful comedy careers. 

According to Libera, Columbia was the first and is currently the only college to offer a Bachelor of Arts in comedy writing and performance. The program started in 2013 and is the fastest growing major at the college, with 251 students as of the Fall 2016 Semester.

The college has nearly a decade-long partnership with Second City, said Libera, who formerly taught courses at Second City’s Training Center before coming to Columbia.

Columbia also sponsors “A Semester at Second City,” which gives students the opportunity to receive college credit for a semester’s worth of courses taken at The Second City Training Center 1608 N. Wells St.

College Magazine’s article also points to Columbia’s wide range of classes, various comedy clubs and student collaboration efforts  as perks of the program.

When compared to other cities known for comedy like Los Angeles and New York, Chicago is the best for aspiring comedians, said Richard Walker, lecturer in the Theatre Department.

“You can take a lot more risks and develop further [at Columbia],” Walker said. “There’s a lot more freedom here to play, experiment and fail.”

Laina Stassines, a sophomore theatre and television double major whose concentration is in the comedy program, said Columbia’s top ranking is accurate.

“The whole idea of working together as comedians [is] really  apparent at Columbia,” Stassines said. “Everyone’s here to make it, but no one’s here to [push] everyone down to make it.”

Other schools ranked in the list’s top five spots include Emerson College, Harvard University, the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Jack Epps, associate professor and chair member of the comedy program at the University of Southern California, notes the benefits of majoring in the field.

“Everybody who works in comedy as a career really feels that they are always a second class citizen,” Epps said. “Bringing it to an academic environment really elevates it and makes it look  [like] both an art and craft.”

Epps said a successful comedy program includes having a wide variety of classes available.

“It’s not just looking at one thing, it’s not just writing, or just performing, but it’s across a wide range because people need to study [comedy] from multiple points of views,” Epps said.

Libera added that Columbia’s comedy studies program can still do more to prepare their students for long-term success in their future careers.

“The big goal is to offer more opportunities for a student to be able to perform on campus,” Libera said. “That’s really the sort of focus for the next year or so: to really create a comedy performance space.” 

Stassines said even though comedy may be difficult for others to take seriously, the program is still filled with students willing to work hard for success, which Columbia encourages. 

“Columbia [says], ‘We’ll accept you but just so you know, these classes are not going to be easy’,” Stassines said. “‘You have to prove yourself and work hard as a comedian,’ and I think that’s awesome.”