Though its specific creation date remains a mystery to even the most involved committee members, Trinity Comedy Society (Comedy Soc) has been providing fun-filled humour to Trinity students for over 20 years. Founded as a Monty Python Appreciation society in the 1980s and later deemed The Dead Parrot’s Society in the 90s, Comedy Soc has taken many names throughout the years. A specific resurgence of the society in 2007, though, has given the organization the notoriety it is known for today. According to the CSC, Comedy Soc signed over 2500 members during Fresher’s Week in 2008, solidifying the group as one of the most popular societies in college that year. Though the reason for a record number of signups is unclear, the 2008 global recession may have given students a need for comedic relief.
“It’s not about how ‘good’ you are at comedy, it’s about how enthusiastic you are.”
Normally, Comedy Soc boasts bi-weekly comedy gigs where members have the opportunity to showcase their own comedic style, while also getting the chance to see other comedians on the Dublin circuit in their natural element. However, as with most aspects of life, the society has had to adapt to changing circumstances. Many of their events such as weekly (and now virtual) coffee mornings can brave the severity of Covid-10 restrictions, but one element of their dogma still needs tackling: comedic timing.
Even in normal circumstances, timing is crucial, and therefore difficult to nail. Laughter is contagious, and comedians depend on it in order to gage the audience’s reception of certain bits. Owen Buckley, a third year Management Science and Information Systems Studies student and sitting Chairperson of Comedy Soc touches on the fragility of comedic timing. “Unfortunately, stand up comedy is a format that does not adapt particularly well to being done virtually,” Buckley admits. “It’s mainly a result of the fact that if you make a joke and there’s a delay between people hearing the joke and laughing and the comedian hearing the laugh, it just creates these awkward pauses. It’s very hard to avoid.”
Nearly eight months into the new normal and comedy groups are still baffled by this. Regardless of the strides made by the society to adapt to Zoom and virtual platforms, some things just aren’t the same. “A lot of [comedy] places have tried to make everyone’s microphone muted while the comedian is performing, and then you get the problem of every single set any comedian performs — it looks like they’re bombing because no one is laughing. It’s very rough, so we’re currently looking at ways to avoid that,” Buckley adds. He describes acclimating to online-only events as no simple feat, but that Comedy Soc is committed to bringing laughter and fun to Trinity students regardless of changing circumstances. “Mostly, this year, we’ve tried to focus on different avenues of comedy that perhaps are more suited to a virtual landscape. So things like sketch comedy, like writing sketch comedy, and looking at having jack box games online. We’re planning an event with Ents called Clash Of The Comics in November where we’re going to have comedians from all around Trinity performing for prizes.”
Buckley goes on to describe some benefits to moving comedy to an online format: “We run comedy classes every year. So we normally have six weeks of comedy classes with nine or ten people to a class, where we teach new comics how to do stand up comedy, which eventually culminates in the graduation gig where they perform to a room of their friends.” Now, the online format provides the committee members with a more accessible format to host classes. “We [now] run two classes with seven people to a Zoom call, so we have 14 people” who are taught by experienced Trinity Comic alumnus, Buckley says. An online format also helps reduce the expected awkwardness of entering a room full of strangers and also allows for more spur of the moment attendance. “There’s definitely benefits as we don’t have to book a room and it’s less time intensive for the teacher to organise,” Buckley adds.
Society Ents officer and fourth year History and Philosophy student, Cameron Moylan, similarly touches on this idea of the uncomfortability of joining a new society, especially one that seems to require not only putting yourself out there, but also being funny. “A lot of people, at least from the Fresher’s stand from last year, were always quite skeptical about joining cause they were like, “oh I’m not funny” or whatever but like, most of the time it’s more about finding other people funny. I say that cause I’m not funny,” he adds. Buckley similarly expressed this sentiment, adding that “anyone can come to our events. Anyone can come to our coffee mornings, and if anyone wants to perform in any of the gigs we have, they absolutely can. All of the places are reserved for Trinity Comics first. It’s not about how ‘good’ you are at comedy, it’s about how enthusiastic you are, you know, how excited you are.”
Society Secretary and fourth year European Studies student, Tilly Lyons, urges students to get involved regardless of past experience or comfort in public speaking. “It’s one of the societies where there’s very different levels of participation. You could come to the coffee mornings and not talk if you wanted to. You can sit and listen to people be funny; it’s the same with the gigs. You can come to gigs and, like, watch people be funny and then go home and you’re as valued a member as somebody who is like writing sketches or performing comedy,” Lyons adds. Unlike most other societies, where direct involvement and hands-on participation is crucial to rising in the committee ranks, Comedy Soc doesn’t discriminate. “All the different levels of participation are really important to the society,” Lyons mentions.
Though comedy as a whole has often been regarded as a boys’ club and a medium that specifically caters to men, the Trinity society is unwavering in its desire to create a safe, accessible space for all involved. “We want the society to be as inclusive as possible. We don’t want people feeling uncomfortable being at our events; it’s something we take very seriously. We realize, in other comedy spaces, certain groups of people can feel very uncomfortable and we want to avoid that as much as we possibly can,” Buckley asserts. To this effect, Lyons similarly agrees with Buckley with regard to the effort made to create an inclusive and open environment. “I think in the committee anyway there are two girls and three guys, so it’s quite even in that sense. And then I think the membership is quite 50/50 as well. That being said, I feel like, as with every society, there is more that can be done to ensure everybody is comfortable,” she admits.
In terms of new membership involvement, the three committee members unanimously agree that attending virtual coffee mornings is the best way to get your foot in the door. “Coffee mornings are basically an excuse to catch up with people and chat about comedy and talk about stupid things, really. It’s good fun,” Moylan says. “They’re one of my favorite sort of things within the comedy society just cause, like, generally, it’s good vibes and it’s people who like comedy. It’s generally pretty funny.” It appears now is as good a time as any to get involved and see how funny, or unfunny, you truly are. With Comedy Soc, it doesn’t actually matter. Take the plunge and join. Now, more than ever, we need a bit of comedy in our lives.