What’s So Funny? Chapman Comedy Clubs

From left: Grant Peters and Courtney Archerd performing a comedy routine for Father’s Milk. Photo courtesy of Jacob Rattner.

Comedy is one of the only reasons senior screenwriting major Rohan Dias gets out of bed in the morning. But simply making his friends chuckle isn’t enough to break into the competitive entertainment industry. 

Dias remembered spending his Friday nights as a freshman driving to Los Angeles for stand-up shows, sleeping in UCLA dorms and waking up on Saturdays to make his audience laugh yet again. 

Being a comedian is nothing to laugh at. 

“If you want to do stand-up it’s not something you can do once a week, or once a month. It’s something you need to be doing every night if you want to be able to do it at any level of competency,” said Dias. 

Because there is a strong comedy scene at Chapman, some students wish there were more avenues to prepare them for a career in the comedy industry after graduation. Comedy clubs associated with Chapman are currently the only way for students to practice their comedic skills. 

Graham Byrne, Kumquat co-creator. Photo courtesy of Byrne.

These student run comedy clubs include Father’s Milk, Kids With Feet, Improv Inc, and the Kumquat among a swath of other unofficial clubs. Father’s Milk and Kids With Feet focus mostly on sketch comedy while Improv Inc covers the majority of improv on campus. 

Alumni like Graham Byrne remember when the comedy scene wasn’t so established. Up until 2018 Improv Inc was the only official club on campus.

“There wasn’t a ton of infrastructure for comedy,” Byrne said. “If you don’t get into Improv Inc then what do you do?” 

During his time at Chapman, he took it upon himself to remedy this lack of comedy outlets on campus. 

Byrne founded the iconic satirical newspaper, The Kumquat, with fellow graduate Avery Girion. 

Byrne was confident that he left The Kumquat in capable hands when he graduated. He saw the talent and passion in the classes below him as well as the growing enthusiasm around comedy in general. 

Kids With Feet comedy club poses for a group photo.
Photo by club member Lily Emalfarb.

“When we made the Kumquat we wanted to make something lasting, number one. We wanted to make a club that would be there after we were gone,” Byrne said. “The community is so much better now, it seems like it’s thriving.”

The comedy scene has grown since Byrne graduated with all these clubs aside from Improv Inc being added in the past five years or less. 

In the past year, it seems the comedy scene has grown tremendously and now everyone has decided they want to write comedy or get into stand-up,” said Lily Emalfarb, writer for Kids With Feet and junior screenwriting student. 

There are different ways for students interested in comedy to get involved in the industry. They don’t have to be on stage to shine. 

Emalfarb wishes that Dodge College would offer more classes focused on comedy writing. 

“I have an above-average case of stage fright, I don’t know if it’s the lights or the physical stage that I find vastly different than just being in front of a camera or being in a writer’s room, but I don’t perform all too often,” Emalfarb said.

Chapman’s other premiere sketch comedy club, Father’s Milk, was hit hard by the pandemic and left the club without leadership. Junior screenwriting students like Courtney Archard, Grant Peters and Jacob Rattner stepped up and rebuilt the storied comedy troupe from the ground up. 

Father’s Milk comedy club in the middle of a rousing performance. Photo courtesy of Rattner.

After soft rebooting the club in 2021, it’s been amazing to watch the club grow into something completely new,” Rattner said. “Overall, I’m very proud of how far the club has come in the past two years, and I’m excited about its future.”

While the clubs on campus are working hard to create a thriving comedy scene on-campus, Rattner and senior stand-up comic Rohan Dias would like to see more open mics on campus. 

Dias explained that to be a successful stand-up comic students need to practice their open mic skills every night.

“There’s not much going on stand-up wise for people who really want to be comedians. Someone needs to make a club that is dedicated to going out and doing [open] mics,” Dias said.

Dias said he never sees more than five people in the audience at a comedy club show off-campus. He has seen a full auditorium for Father’s Milk shows. 

Father’s Milk group members being silly to attract new members. From left, Jacob Rattner, Courtney Archerd, Grant Peters, Hazel Thurston and Luke D’Agnese. Photo courtesy of Rattner.

Rattner believes that with extra support from Chapman, there could be more frequent and better promoted open mic shows. 

The comedy scene on campus is always changing and always growing. 

“I love comedy so it’s cool to see it’s been gaining a lot of traction this year especially,” Emalfarb said. 

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