ALLIANCE, Ohio - Eighteen Mount Union students took the stage during the annual "A Night of Stand Up" comedy show in front of a full house in the Gallaher Theater on Friday, April 29. Master of ceremonies Drew Kolek ’22, a theatre and integrated media double major, warmed up the crowd as the students from the PSY 305 Psychology of Humor course took turns delivering three-to-five-minute original comedy sets as part of their final course projects.
“Stand-up comedy has been (rightfully) called the ‘hardest job in the world,’” said Dr. Kevin Meyer, associate professor in Mount Union’s Department of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Human Development and instructor for the course. “For many this is a terrifying experience, while others are actually looking forward to it.”
The comedy show, an annual event for the past seven years, minus a brief hiatus for COVID-19, is just one aspect of the Psychology of Humor course.
“Creating a course that focuses on the psychology of humor was always a goal of mine,” said Meyer. “We cover all aspects of how humor is a psychological phenomenon, from the cognitive aspects, psychological health, the neuroscience of humor, the social psychology of humor and how it develops from childhood into old age.”
The course is popular not only with students in the psychology program, but across several majors on campus.
“I chose to take the class because I was always curious why I find certain things funny,” said Walter Sterling ‘22, a double major in national security and foreign intelligence analysis and German. “I learned the reasons something is funny to me but might not be to others, and how to predict what more people will find amusing.”
During his routine, Sterling’s jokes made light of the campus goose problem and Saturday night football games, a hit with the Mount Union audience.
While many students take the approach of telling humorous personal stories, some students master the art of creating jokes, using the science that they learn in practice in the course. Over the years, several have loved the experience so much that that’ve gone on to perform during open mic nights at comedy clubs.
“Going in knowing that I would have to do stand-up was scary, since I don't find presentations to be my strong suit, but I found it worth it to do something outside of my comfort zone,” said Alyson Kantor ’22, a multi-platform software development major. "Overall, the course changed my perspective on the value of humor in my daily life.”
“Everyone involved gains a significant sense of pride in themselves that found a way to get through it,” said Meyer. “If you can do stand-up comedy, how hard is that end-of-semester presentation in your other classes really going to be?”