When fourth-year student Shawn Constant joined the Comedians of Western club in 2019, he originally thought it was to watch stand-up comedy. When he realized it was a performance club, he decided to give it a shot anyway.
Constant said COW open mics were pretty small when he joined the club, and that the crowd was usually the same ten people. During the summer of 2020, the former president of COW offered the job to Constant, and he accepted.
“I didn't do anything with the club until last year when I finally came back to school myself,” Constant said. “It's not like a crazy story, I really was just given the job because I showed interest in it, and here I am now.”
Since becoming president, Constant said his main goal has been to build consistency.
“I can give student comics who might be trying this for the very first time or who are just trying to continue doing it this consistent show that gets an audience of people that like to watch,” he said. “It just makes me really happy.”
The club, formerly called Stand-Up Comedy Klub, was formed in 2010. According to the Vikings of Comedy Constitution, the club’s mission is “to create a comfortable and supportive environment in which students can practice how to write and perform comedy, predominantly stand-up comedy.”
COW hosts comedy open mics at Western’s Underground Coffee House every other Thursday. Sign-ups start at 6:30 p.m. and the show begins at 7 p.m. Students are given five minutes to share their comedy routine with the audience.
Lila Jensen, a first-year student at Western, joined the club after hearing about it from a friend. She said she likes the atmosphere of the open mic shows and how supportive the audience is.
“It doesn't feel student-run, which I think is the biggest misconception about comedians at Western,” she said.
In addition to hosting open mics, COW also holds workshop meetings where students can test their material out with their fellow club members.
Constant said he wants COW to be an inviting and supportive space for students to try something new.
“I don't think [comedy] has to be based on some sort of natural talent,” he said. “I think anybody can really give it a shot.”
On Jan. 19, COW hosted their first guest comedian, Taylor Clark, who is a professional comedian based in Seattle. He also coaches other comedians who are just starting out.
Clark said his experience with COW was enjoyable.
“Every single one of them had a pretty good head on their shoulders for early comics, who normally are kind of delusional maniacs,” Clark said. “I was very surprised.”
Fourth-year student Damon Lawton and third-year student Jackson Graham are regulars at COW open mic nights. Together, they hosted their first open mic night on their own at Karate Church on Jan. 31 to give the community more opportunities to try stand-up.
Graham said that anyone can do comedy.
“When I was starting out, I would worry like, ‘Oh, I'm gonna bomb from this crowd,’” they said. “But if you do bad, no one remembers you, and if you do good, people remember you.”
Lawton said having more open mics in Bellingham makes starting out a lot easier because driving to Seattle for a five-minute set gets tiring. Lawton and Graham plan on hosting more open mics at Karate Church in the future.
“There's a scene at Western, and we'd love to try and bring everyone together to have some cool shows,” Lawton said.
According to Jensen, the comedy scene can be hard for anyone to jump into, but it’s especially hard for someone who is female-presenting.
“I think that a lot of times when women go up to do stand-up, it's looked at like we're complaining, but men go up and literally complain about women, and it's hilarious,” Jensen said.
According to Zippia, a website that tracks career demographics and trends, only 26% of comedians were female-identifying as of 2022.
Clark said women can struggle in stand-up at first because the community is male-dominated; however, booking agents are more likely to book women over men to create diversity in their set lists.
“The easiest way to get diverse comedy is to have diverse people. So having people of color and women in the show means you're pretty much guaranteed to have different perspectives,” Clark said.
Jensen said even though it can be intimidating at first, especially as a woman, she believes COW has really helped her find support in the comedy community.
“The best part about Comedians of Western is we're here to cultivate with you, and when you come to the workshops, you can bring literally a one-word idea,” she said. “You can plant that seed here, and we'll help you grow it, so there's no fear. And I think that's the best part of it.”
Emma Burrell (she/her) is a senior at Western majoring in visual journalism. When not studying, she’s probably watching "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" or crocheting.
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