If you find yourself looking for a college comedy show in Boston, you might not know where to start. While there are professional shows at Improv Boston, Improv Asylum, The Comedy Studio and The Wilbur Theatre—not to mention events like the Women in Comedy Festival—there is also a vibrant, long-underappreciated college comedy scene in the city. (There’s a reason why "The Late Show with David Letterman" keeps an eye out for interns and stand-up comedians here, like Brandeis and Boston University alumnus Myq Kaplan.) There are generally multiple comedy groups on each campus, making the scene tough to figure out.
Here are six terrific troupes to keep an eye on to get you started:
1. Cheap Sox (at Tufts University)
Why You Should See Them: They're good enough to be heading to the College Improv Tournament in Chicago--as finalists, no less. These guys and gals are the crème de la crème. (Also, they host the Laughs of Love Festival that invites college comedy groups from across the city to perform together.)
2. Liquid Fun (at Boston University)
Cost: Usually free (but if not, no more than $5).
Why You Should See Them: 24 Hour Comedy Marathons (to support charity) and open practices for people to see. If you want to see troupes from other colleges across the city gather in one place, these guys are an organizing force in a world where it can be very difficult to wrangle everyone's schedules together. The fact that they're so good at simply doing things is striking. (Another group, the BU Callbacks, also hosts a sketch comedy competition called the Funderdome.)
3. All-Troupe Comedy Shows at Emerson College
Above: Jimmy’s Traveling All-Stars perform “Harry Potter and The Forgotten Friends.”
Why You Should See Them: It may be biased to praise my alma mater and to flag a particular comedy scene of which I was once a member, but I think it's fair to say that it's a school deeply invested in action. If you're 18 years old and show up at Emerson on your first day with a camera, you'll be angrily wondering why your feature film isn't finding distribution at Sundance a week later. That kind of investment in action played out in the comedy community when I was there, and, if you look for recent videos from Swollen Monkey Showcase, This is Pathetic, Jimmy’s Traveling All-Stars, ECW and my Chocolate Cake City — it’s still true today. The All-Troupe Comedy Shows showcase an array of Emerson's comedy clubs all in one night.
4. Roadkill Buffet (at MIT)
Above: Liquid Fun interviews Roadkill Buffet after a set.
Why You Should See Them: They're very quick, they're very surreal, and since their home base is MIT, they're not afraid to get very nerdy, very quickly.
5. Dead Serious (at Wellesley College)
Above: Dead Serious performs at MIT.
Why You Should See Them: It gets you out of Boston and onto a beautiful campus with an arboretum and museum worth exploring in their own rights. One member in the group also told me that — compared to other activities they did on campus — the community support for improv was “astonishing,” and that reinforcement translates into very strong work.
6. NU and Improv’d (at Northeastern University).
Above: Liquid Fun interviews NU and Improv’d after a set. (Check out this performance from a Spoken Word night, which briefly includes someone accidentally grinding against a grandfather's face.)
Why You Should See Them: There’s something about them that — when you watch them perform — leaves you feeling bracingly optimistic.
Evan Fleischer is a regular contributor to Esquire and numerous other publications. This is his website – not WBUR, this.