Columbia Students Hold Second Annual Comedy Festival

A class of Columbia College Chicago Students welcome comedians to the stage for the second-ever Columbia Laughs Comedy Festival.

The stage is set for the second Columbia Laughs, Columbia College Chicago’s annual comedy festival. The festival, which will be held on April 27 from 4:30 to 9 p.m., is put on by students from classes in the Business and Entrepreneurship department and features comedians from multiple disciplines.  

The festival is for more than just laughs, however. Student organizers get hands-on experience planning the event, putting a special emphasis on creativity, diversity, and inclusion. The event is free and open to the public, but a suggested $10 donation and silent auction helps fund the Columbia Laughs Award, a scholarship available to Comedy Studies students.  

With the event entering its second year, Lucy McReynolds, a senior studying Comedy and Arts Management, says the focus is on expanding the scope of the festival and leaving a legacy for future students. 

“There is no other event like this that allows the comedy majors to really collaborate with other departments to this extent,” McReynolds says. “Comedy students can be very self-sufficient, but this is a chance for more departments to be exposed to what the comedy students have to offer. It's also a great chance for comedy majors to see how insanely amazing these students in the business department are. Every day I come into class I'm blown away by the ideas and materials they create to make this event even better." 

The class planning the festival is broken up into four groups: talent, production, marketing, and sponsorship. The festival is sponsored by Celsius, Trader Joes, C&K Smokehouse, and yarnify!.  

As the festival expands, the class is welcoming more types of performances. Columbia Laughs will be headlined by Sarah Perry and, along with stand-ups and improv groups, there will now be drag and comedy play performances and clips from the yet-to-be-released docuseries No One Asked You, which is about stand-ups tackling the subject of reproductive rights. 

The course planning and executing the event is taught by part-time faculty member and Associate Dean of Student Life Kari Sommers. Working with students so often, Sommers is very familiar with the signature tenacity of Columbia students, and she sees it on full display in the planning of this festival.  

“I cannot overstate the determination, innovation, and professionalism demonstrated by each and every member of this group of students,” Sommers says. “They are bringing (and executing) new thinking, having difficult discussions with each other, and most importantly are working as a high-functioning team. This is the professional skill and impact we hope to see develop in our students and this group is doing it. With flair!” 

With over 20 acts that include 70 performers, the groups have learned the benefits of good communication and all the pieces that need to come together to pull off a successful event.  

“Every step of the way needs input from multiple teams, which can sometimes be a challenge, but it makes us all a much more well-oiled machine to complete every new task that arises,” McReynolds says. “I've learned so much from participating in this class, but my main takeaway is that I will leave this class knowing that I can pull off something of this scale.” 

Looking forward, the students hope to set up Columbia Laughs for success and give future students in their same shoes the support they need. As for the future of the festival, the group hopes to solidify its brand, reputation, and the planning process to help it grow further in the coming years. For the future students, the Columbia Laughs Award will help provide financial support to Columbia’s comedy students so that they can put more of their energy into learning and making quality art.  

“The Columbia Laughs Award was born out of our first festival last year and we seek to build the fund to support the retention of Columbia comedy students,” Sommers says. “What is true across all creative disciplines is the simple idea of ‘practice.’ Do it again, and again, and again until you can barely stand (or type or speak). This fund benefits Columbia students so that they can de-focus on the pressures of ‘how to pay’ and more on doing it again. And again.” 

Beyond the success of the festival itself, McReynolds also hopes that Columbia Laughs will inspire students to take advantage of the creative opportunities that come from working together.  

“I personally think the best thing about Columbia is all the opportunities to collaborate with talented people. My hope is next year more comedy students can get involved in this class and experience Columbia Laughs from both sides like I have. I promise you won't regret it!” 

RSVP and find more event details for Columbia Laughs.