Is he funny or is he just white: the ins and outs of Northwestern's comedy scene
At Northwestern, there are two paths for aspiring comedians: either you’re one of the white guys on Mee-ow, The Blackout, Bix, Flipside, The Panini Players or you “should try Out Da Box.” You can forget about auditioning for Titanic: rumor has it if you don’t make at least one joke about how hard it is to be a young white guy, they’ll throw your app in the trash.
Medill sophomore Louis Baker is one of the thirteen white guys that make up the fifteen person Northwestern Comedy Forum. “Yeah it can be super competitive to break in the comedy scene here. Like during auditions, I’m always afraid the guy before me is doing the same “middle class white guy” bit that I’m about to do. Sometimes he’s even wearing the same maroon American Apparel hoodie as me. But at the end of the day we’ll probably both get in,” Baker comments.
School of Communication studies freshman Dave Larkin applied to Northwestern hoping to get involved in the comedy scene. “It’s probably like the worst time to be a straight white male in comedy right now, but I’m pretty confident I’ll get into Mee-ow next year,” Larkin remarks. “I did my first open mic last week, and I’m basically a pro. I even gave some pointers to the chick that did her set after mine. I spent 10 minutes explaining to her what good comedy should sound like, and told her to ‘just go with it’.”
Despite the trend of homogeneity in Northwestern comedy groups, there have been efforts to make them more inclusive. Northwestern Flipside editor Lucas Marshall prides himself on making his group more accessible. “We listened to what a female writer had to say at a meeting for the first time in years so I think we’re making a lot of progress,” Marshall says. “That’s one way we’ve fostered an inclusive environment, there really are no barriers to entry. We have all sorts of white guys on our team. We’ve got the white guy who only makes penis jokes, the Ohio native who only talks about why women won’t sleep with him, and even the white guy who has a twitter account dedicated to tweeting ‘Trump is a cheeto’ everyday. We’re very diverse,” Marshall comments. “So we decided not to have as many writers of color on our team, even though we’re equal opportunity offenders.”
Ultimately, groups like Titanic are trying to make the Northwestern comedy scene more inclusive and accessible. Medill Senior Greg Glenn hopes to “continue making jokes about how not gay I am.” After all laughter is the best medicine there is. “If it comes down to ‘making jokes with slurs in them makes you live longer’, then I’m going to be immortal,” Glenn says.