Matt Crowley/The AS Review
With a burgeoning drama department, a nationally-recognized improv comedy troupe and a popular sketch comedy program, one could assume Western’s stand-up comedy scene carries an equal amount of praise and merit. But here, with the sun setting and a long weekend coming to a close, a small group of up-and-comers are simply trying to put student comedy on the map.
Started only a quarter ago, the fresh-faced Viking Comedy Club (or, as it is called by some, the Stand-Up Comedy Klub, or SUCK.) exists to give the quick-witted among us not only a place to practice and hone their craft, but to organize and try to give comedy the attention they feel it deserves.
“I decided that I wanted to start the club over last summer because I started really getting into stand-up and I really wanted to get a group of comedians together so it would be easier for us to find places to perform and have a group of people that would be supportive and helpful with work-shopping jokes,” said club co-founder Travis Nelson.
Nelson applied for club recognition last quarter and soon learned that another student and comedian, Justin Shepherd, was trying to do the same thing. Soon enough the two joined forces and Viking Comedy Club was born.
Although the club is open to students of all skill levels, Nelson, Shepherd and a select number of others take the role of the grizzled veteran, dispensing advice and encouragement to those who are new to the scene. Jamie Lee, a Western student who has been doing comedy as long as the club has been around, says the club can be extremely helpful.
“It’s definitely a lot easier with people being supportive,” she said.
“That’s what this club is here for, for people that need help or haven’t done it before,” said Shepherd.
Despite their accumulated experiences and veteran roles, Shepherd and Nelson had to start at square one at some point as well.
“I started writing jokes down when I was in high school but I never performed them,” said Nelson. “Then when I got to Western I started writing, acting, directing for YouWould!, Western’s sketch comedy show. I think that helped me a lot in terms of my timing and joke writing.”
Soon, Nelson was performing stand-up and eventually competed in Western’s Last Comic Standing competition, where he finished third.
“That’s what really hooked me,” he said.
Despite the club’s novelty and a membership that is constantly in flux, Nelson and Shepherd have a clear idea of what they want to do and what they hope to achieve.
“It’s basically like a smart-ass support group,” Nelson said. “It’s great to have a group of people that know your style and can help give you notes on your performances.”
But the club is not only for comedians trying to hash out jokes for open mic nights. The group is planning on finding a space where they can hold regular performances and build a reputation around town. This way, not only do current comedians benefit, but future ones as well.
“The Underground Coffeehouse is a good place for open mic but we want to start having actual comedy nights where we don’t have to battle the musicians for stage time,” said Nelson. “We’ve seen a lot more interest in stand-up over the past year and almost every time we have a show it’s standing room only. Hopefully that will open more opportunities for us.”
The group touches on the serious as well, like how to approach jokes dealing with sensitive topics, and how to work with a crowd. The goal is not only to give comedy the attention it deserves, but to respect it and the people who enjoy it.
“We’re just helping to create more shows and diversify the spectrum,” said Nelson. “Bellingham in general is very into improv comedy. We’re pushing to shine a little light on stand-up as well.”
Viking Comedy Club meets every Monday at 5 p.m. in Fraser Hall 4.