No joke: Second City, Columbia College Chicago unveil degree in comedy

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America’s acute comedian shortage has been a familiar embarrassment for years. Hilarity experts have fretted that this great nation isn’t producing enough stand-up comics to sustain our historical humor edge over naturally funny rivals such as Poland and Great Britain.

Nightclub owners, people who like jokes about airplane food and the entire republic can only rejoice, then, at the news that Columbia College Chicago and The Second City, Chicago’s celebrated improv comedy troupe, are launching a degree program in comedy writing and performance.

The new bachelor’s program will officially be up and running in the fall of 2013, reports Chicago Business Journal. Both Columbia College and Second City will recruit students.

“The comedy performance and writing degree will be the first one of its kind in the nation,” John Green, Columbia’s interim performing arts dean, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Green may or may not be correct. The University of Southern California offers something called Comedy@SCA, an interdisciplinary program that appears to resemble the new major at Columbia College.

Green originally proposed the Columbia program in 2011.

“Columbia’s location in Chicago, arguably the most active and influential city in the world of improv and sketch comedy, makes the college uniquely suited to offer a comedy concentration,” said Warrick L. Carter, Columbia College’s president, according to Chicago Business Journal.

“The new degree requires students to study both writing and performance, to do improvisation, physical clowning and stand-up,” Anne Libera, director of comedy studies at the Second City, told The Reporter. “Most college programs have focused on medium as opposed to content, but the current professional landscape requires that artists be content creators and providers across media and to be prepared to do so in media that have not even been created yet.”

“One of the qualities that makes Second City alumni so successful is that they’re not only actors, but they’re also writers,” added Andrew Alexander, Second City’s CEO & executive producer of the Second City as well as a Columbia College trustee.

Coursework in the program will occur primarily in Columbia’s theater department. Students will also take courses in the school’s television department and its arts, entertainment and media management program.

While cost to enroll in the Columbia College program is not clear, annual tuition at the school is just over $20,000 for full-time undergrads.

Columbia College Chicago enrolls almost 12,000 students and is among the largest arts-related colleges in the United States. Famous people who have attended the school include Pat Sajak, Andy Richter and the rapper Common.

Notable alumni of The Second City stage and touring companies include Bill Murray, John Belushi, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and, of course, Tim Kazurinsky.

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