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The Dartmouth
May 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

For some wise-cracking seniors, career lies in comedy

The Dog Day Players perform at Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity last week during DREAM\'s Halloween Carnival.
The Dog Day Players perform at Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity last week during DREAM\'s Halloween Carnival.

After graduation, many Dartmouth students flock to jobs on Wall Street, travel abroad in search of themselves or head home to regroup. But a certain wise-cracking percentage of graduates take themselves a little less seriously and choose a more offbeat calling: comedy.

"Humor is tough to try to pull off," Alex Rogers '08, president of the Jack-O-Lantern humor magazine, said. "Everyone will find something different funny. The challenge is making everyone laugh."

Although the College's alumni include noted humorists Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel '25), Rachel Dratch '88 of Saturday Night Live fame, and Mindy Kaling '01, who currently stars in "The Office," comedy at Dartmouth may not be widespread, Rogers said.

"It's a small number of students who are actively involved," said Rogers, who is also a member of the comedy troupe Casual Thursday.

But the humor scene at the College is growing, Noah Kaufman '05 said, especially with the popularity of comedic productions such as the Jack-O YouTube hit "Drinkin' Time." Kaufman, who contemplated law school after graduation but then moved to Los Angeles, has been a production assistant at Jimmy Kimmel Live since January of this year.

"During my time, the comedy scene was building an audience," Kaufman, who was part of the Jack-O and a founding member of Casual Thursday during his time at Dartmouth, said. "But the crowds at a comedy show don't compare to those at an a cappella show."

One reason why comedy is not a more prominent aspect of Dartmouth life, Kaufman said, is that groups such as Casual Thursday and Dog Day Players do not get funding from the College itself, unlike at other schools including Bates College.

"That [funding] allows them to do things that are a little bigger than we could do," Kaufman said.

Kaufman also said that the College's comedy scene lacks the longstanding networking system established at other schools -- a factor especially important in the entertainment industry, in which connections often lead to a job.

"There isn't quite the feeder system like at a place like Harvard," Rogers said. "Many Harvard alums go on to write for The Simpsons, SNL and Conan O'Brien. There isn't the same type of network here."

Although comedy may not be a large part of social life for most students, those that are involved find that some of their best college memories stem from their involvement with humor, Dog Day Players President Chris Jones '08 said.

"It's more than improv," Jones said. "It's my family here on campus. It's a pleasure to go to rehearsal."

These students' involvement with comedy at Dartmouth may also provide them with a stepping stone to the professional humor scene. Kaufman said that his role as a production assistant is a typical starting point for those hoping to break into the business.

"It's the first rung on the ladder that you really can climb," Kaufman said. "There's a certain amount of luck, but becoming a PA is a good way to start."

After graduation, Rogers hopes to become a television writer -- but he also has other aspirations.

"I'm planning to pursue comedy," Rogers said, "But I hope to be eating too."

Likewise, Jones is aiming for a career in comedy, but is focusing on performing rather than writing. Jones said he is contemplating auditioning for improv groups such as Second City in Chicago and the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York.

"It's a hobby that's grown into a passion that's grown into a big question mark," Jones said. "I'll probably give it a shot. I just love performing."