The curriculum at Lake Erie College (LEC) is about to get be much funnier. Starting this semester, students can minor in comedy studies, a new offering within the College’s School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. The coursework should start appearing in the college’s course catalog for fall 2017.
While most people can tell a joke, the true art of comedy actually involves technique. The comedy studies minor at LEC will help students to dial up their creativity across disciplines, while tackling the facilitation and exploration of the rich historical, cultural and theoretical dimensions of comedy as an art form.
Students will primarily learn from associate professor of Theatre Dr. Jerry Jaffe, the long-time LEC faculty member who conceptualized the new minor. Dr. Jaffe has run LEC’s theater department, and been on campus since 2008. He’s been involved in comedy in various forms for most of his career, having directed many comedies over the years, studying at Second City and teaching improv courses at previous institutions, along with LEC.
“As a life-long fan of comedy, and practitioner of comedy, I am most excited about sharing my passion with talented students with similar interests,” says Dr. Jerry Jaffe. “I am also excited about working across disciplines to help students and faculty see how much comedy applies to many areas of life and work besides entertainment. Also, as far as I can determine, we are the only college in Ohio with a formal comedy studies program, so I am excited about being on the cutting edge of research and curricular developments.”
Dr. Jaffe also does stand-up comedy and produces three different comedy podcasts, including Gold Star Classroom. He is currently writing a book about “post-September 11 religious satire,” thus he has designed the minor around his own skills and interests, which can easily be housed at LEC. Through the comedy studies course work at LEC, students will also have access to Dr. Jaffe’s own network of professional comedians and industry professionals as he invites individuals to campus to perform, visit classes and work directly with the students.
“I have run comedy-themed classes over the years,” explains Dr. Jaffe. “In those earlier classes I met numerous students who said that they wished they could have studied comedy, or even majored in comedy. As part of introducing the new minor to both students and the community, I am currently running a comedy class. It has 14 students, most of whom are excited to be participating.”
The student response has been great. “It’s a great way to push yourself outside your limits and give yourself new experiences.” said Jessie Moore, a senior majoring in English who is currently enrolled in Theatre 270: Comedy, Writing and Performance.
There’s a growing interest in the field of comedy, evidenced by the creation of comedy studies programs at several colleges across the country. Students minoring in comedy studies at Lake Erie College will study comedy in all of its forms including performance, art, creative writing, history and theory. The curriculum also includes stand-up comedy, film, design and advertising.
“This academic program is highly relevant to all students,” states Dr. Bryan DePoy, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer. “In fact, it prepares students to be better communicators, a highly valued skill. Interestingly, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for actors, including comedians, is expected to grow 10% in the coming years, which is faster than average.”
Dr. Jerry Jaffe emphasizes that studying and learning comedy is a valuable path for anyone, regardless of career aspirations. “Comedy has a wide range of applications,” he says. “While it might seem obvious for someone interested in stand-up or theater to study comedy, the skill set can be useful in other vocational disciplines ranging from advertising to public relations.”
“Starting as a minor gives us room to grow. Hopefully, the classes get students and the minor gets students, and I am planning exciting events to help the program grow. In March actor-comedian Sean Lynch is coming to campus. Not only will he perform, but he will also visit students in the classroom and mentor them. In addition to exciting guests, I look forward to events such as festivals and conferences.”