Emerson introduces comedy minor

by Stephany Christie / Beacon Staff • October 29, 2014

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Emerson has something new to laugh about: The School of the Arts will offer a five-course interdisciplinary minor in comedy performance and writing next semester. 

Comedy has long been a major part of the Emerson community, and Martie Cook, associate professor and associate chair of the visual and media arts department, said this affinity gave her the idea to propose the new minor.

“There are so many students here at Emerson who really want to study comedy,” said Cook. “So I really wanted to see if I could expand on this.”

Nicholas Holmes, a member of the campus comedy group Inside Joke, said he is excited about this new program and is considering the minor.

“Comedy can be an incredibly powerful communicative tool,” said the junior performing arts major. “And I think if Emerson uses this minor to teach people about the rich culture of comedy, instead of just teaching students classes on how to write jokes and sketch, the minor could be a truly fascinating thing.”

Cook said that her first idea was to open a comedy center on campus. When she originally brought the idea to administrators in October 2013, Robert Sabal, the interim dean of the School of Arts, suggested that the first step in this process should be to create a comedy minor. 

Sabal and Adam Greenfield, the assistant dean of the School of Arts, created a committee of professors from the School of Arts that month to further address the initiative. 

The process of creating the minor took a year. Cook and the committee had to review the existing curriculum in the School of Arts, and determine which classes could apply to the minor. They also created one course, The Evolution of Comedy, which was approved in May by the School of the Arts curriculum committee, a group of professors responsible for authorizing changes to courses. 

Cook said she had to ensure that all of the professors on the board agreed the program would benefit students. The minor’s final approval came from the School of the Arts curriculum committee.

Students in the minor will be required to take two visual and media arts courses: The Evolution of Comedy—covering subjects including how Ancient Greeks portrayed humor and modern-day late-night comedy and stand up—and Writing for Television.

Students can select the rest of their five required courses from nine options. Students interested in comedic writing can take courses in the writing, literature, and publishing department, and students pursuing acting or stand-up can take courses in the performing arts department.

Ultimately, students will learn about both the writing and performance aspects of comedy, which go hand-in-hand in many careers in the industry, Cook said.

“We’re in the age of hybrid,” said Cook. “For kids to be able to write and perform their own stuff, that is going to make them come out of Emerson much stronger than the competition.”