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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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A guide to Northwestern’s vibrant comedy scene

Ranked+the+third-best+school+for+aspiring+comedians+by+College+Magazine+in+2019%2C+Northwestern+was+once+home+to+many+of+today%E2%80%99s+late-night+and+stand-up+stars.
Illustration by Madison Bratley
Ranked the third-best school for aspiring comedians by College Magazine in 2019, Northwestern was once home to many of today’s late-night and stand-up stars.

The story is all too familiar: A Wildcat doesn’t make the cut for Mee-Ow their freshman year but goes on to perform at The Second City — Chicago’s premier comedy club — post-graduation, only to land a spot on “Saturday Night Live” a few years later.

Ranked the third-best school for aspiring comedians by College Magazine in 2019, Northwestern was once home to many of today’s late-night and stand-up stars. Billy Eichner (Communication ’00), Ziwe Fumudoh (Communication ’14), and Ana Gasteyer (Communication ’89) are just some of these well-known comedians.

While the School of Communication lacks a formal major in comedy (there is, however, a four-course module), the University has for decades been home to a thriving comedy scene. With numerous student groups on campus ranging from sketch comedy to late-night variety shows to musical improv, NU’s campus offers ample opportunities for students of all experience levels to test out their comedic chops.

The Bix

The Bix is NU’s only musical improv group. Once a quarter, The Bix ensemble takes the stage to improvise anything from music-imbued scenes to full-length, on-the-spot musicals driven by audience suggestions. Even if singing isn’t your thing, The Bix is open to aspiring performers of all musical abilities (or lack thereof).

The Blackout

The Blackout combines “Saturday Night Live”-esque sketch comedy with the late-night variety show format a la Jimmy Kimmel. With a cast and crew of more than 100 students, the group has a place for anyone from comedians and writers to lighting and camera experts. The Blackout was also honored in 2019 with a College Television Award (known as the “College Emmys”) for its short-form parody segment, the “Quarter Update.”

Mee-Ow

Mee-Ow has long held the reputation of being one of NU’s most prestigious and selective student comedy groups, boasting an impressive roster of alumni that spans from Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Communication ’83) to Seth Meyers (Communication ’96). Founded in 1974, Mee-Ow produces two shows each Winter Quarter that feature a mix of improv and sketch comedy — supported by a live band — in the storied Shanley Pavilion.

No Fun Mud Piranhas

No Fun Mud Piranhas is NU’s only audition-free improv group. While the group has faded and reappeared several times over the years (it was most recently revived last year after a pandemic lull), its alumni roster rivals those of more well-known comedy groups on campus, with names like David Schwimmer (Communication ’88) and Stephen Colbert (Communication ’86). The group meets weekly with periodic performances.

Northwestern Sketch Television

Northwestern Sketch Television writes, directs, shoots and produces sketches throughout the year that it promotes on YouTube and social media. NSTV screens all its sketches at its annual premiere and hosts two live comedy shows each year.

Out Da Box

Specializing in improv and sketch comedy, Out Da Box focuses specifically on creating a space for students of color and marginalized identities in the comedy community. The multicultural comedy group aims to push social and political boundaries with its content, which is featured most prominently in ODB’s popular spring show.

The Titanic Players

The Titanic Players is one of NU’s most competitive improv groups, specializing in long-form comedy. A mainstay of the comedy scene on campus since 1994, Titanic performs monthly and regularly ventures into Chicago for shows at The Comedy Clubhouse. The group has also competed (and won) several times at the National College Improv Tournament.

Sit & Stand-Up

Sit & Stand-Up is NU’s longest-running stand-up show. An offshoot of Sit & Spin Productions, a student group focused on unconventional theatre performances, Sit & Stand Up puts on several shows a year highlighting its student comics.

The Set-Up

Founded with the goal of creating a barrier-free stand-up comedy space on campus, The Set-Up does not require auditions to join, and it hosts weekly workshops to provide feedback to comedians of all experience levels. The Set-Up has shows every other week and a rehearsed showcase with more experienced performers at the end of each quarter.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jacob_wendler

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