Comedy Writing and Performance (BA)

Explore comedy across platforms in Columbia College Chicago’s top-ranked Comedy Writing and Performance bachelor’s degree program. With a strong emphasis on writing, the program pushes you to take creative risks and experiment regularly, giving you space to hone your creative voice. By the time you graduate, you’ll be ready for a career in comedy.

Comedy Writing and Performance Columbia College Chicago Performer

We’ll train you in every aspect of comedy performance and production, giving you lots of opportunities to write and perform. You’ll gain a solid foundation in theory. Through a series of readings, screenings, lectures, and discussions, you’ll study what makes us laugh and why it makes us laugh. You’ll also study the role of comedy in society and the ways it functions in satire, taboo, stereotype, and archetype. You’ll join a vibrant community of students passionate about comedy. They revel in the rush of making people laugh.

Semester at Second City

performers at Second City

The Comedy Writing and Performance program was designed by and is taught by the country’s leading comedy trainers. The program’s highlight is the immersive semester at Second City. The immersive semester culminates in a full comedy performance written by students and acted by students on one of the theater’s professional stages. You’ll spend 15 weeks working in the space that’s been a launching pad for comedy legends like Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Tim Meadows, and Stephen Colbert.

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Chicago: A Comedy Hub

Chicago has one of the most vibrant comedy scenes in the country, and the comedy community here is friendly to people just starting out. The city hosts huge events like the Chicago Sketch Fest and Chicago Improv Fest, putting you near many of America’s greatest improv and stand-up stages, where you can witness works in progress and meet emerging comedians from around the world. You’ll also have formal and informal interactions with organizations like The Onion, iO, and The Annoyance. 

Comedy Cross-Training

So what does it mean to major in comedy? You’ll take a variety of courses across genres and platforms. We call it comedy cross-training. The comedy marketplace spans a wide spectrum of media, from stage to television to film to internet-based content. Comedians wear many hats; they are producers, directors, writers, and performers.

Comedy Writing and Performance Columbia College Chicago In the Classroom

  • In your first year, you’ll take courses focused on the art of comedy. You’ll explore different forms of comedy, including stand-up, sketch writing, clown, and improvisation.

  • You’ll watch and read work by comedy greats from the past and present and learn about the history of comedy. You’ll study what makes us laugh and why it makes us laugh. You’ll also study the role of comedy in society and the ways it functions in satire, taboo, stereotype, and archetype.

  • Your classes will push you to take risks. Even if you consider yourself a stand-up solo comedian, you’ll work with improv teams. If you see yourself as a comedy writer, you’ll learn how to perform in your work and the work of others.

  • You’ll take courses on topics like self-management, freelancing, and video for comedy. You’ll also take classes focused on professional comedian packets and auditions, graduating with the practical skills you’ll need to navigate the industry.

Comedy Writing and Performance Columnia College Chicago

Semester in LA

Columbia offers a semester-away experience in LA. You’ll do an internship with a Hollywood organization, network with industry insiders, and take courses with professionals on topics like the business of screenwriting and sitcom development. Learn more about Semester in LA.

The Getz Theatre Center

The Getz Theatre Center has four professional-quality stages, a state-of-the-art scene shop, stocked costume shop, and dedicated makeup/prosthetics and lighting labs.

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Our faculty includes working professionals who write and perform regularly and have deep connections in the Chicago comedy scene. Director of Comedy Studies Anne Libera served as the executive artistic director of the Second City Training Center and the theater’s education programs for many years. She has taught there since 1986 and counts Amy Poehler, Jordan Peele, Ashley Nicole Black, Jordan Klepper, and Kristen Schaal among her former students.

Anne Libera sitting in chair
We’re Laughing with You

Theatre Assistant Professor Anne Libera talks about creating the first ever BA in Comedy Writing and Performance and why the next Tina Fey is probably here at Columbia.

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Alumni Success

Columbia alumni across generations have achieved success as comedy writers and performers, from Shecky Greene decades ago to recent grad Aidy Bryant, a Saturday Night Live writer and actor. You can find Columbia graduates working as writers and performers in film, television, theatre, stand-up, improv, sketch comedy, and web series.

Aidy Bryant ’09

Aidy Bryant talks about cutting her teeth on the Chicago improv scene and landing her dream job on Saturday Night Live.

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Check out other degrees in Theatre:

As you fine-tune your individual comedic voice, you can explore other passions. Many comedy majors often minor in: