Why having a POC centered space for comedy on Campus matters.
There is a Facebook group that I treasure with my whole heart: POCC (People of Color Comedy). The description of the group reads “Hey! If you’re a person of color and are in a comedy group/want to learn more about comedy, join this group!” There are 15 members in total, a few of whom have graduated from Tufts already, while the rest of the students in the group are presumably interested in comedy or are members of comedy groups on campus.
15 may seem like a small number, enough to fill a small room with perhaps a few empty seats. But it’s a start! Between the postings of diversity workshops and proposals for bonding nights among the members of the group, one thing is evidently clear: there needs to be a POC centered space for comedy on campus, outside the confines of social media.
I know, I know, there are more than 15 Tufts affiliated students of color that are funny. And a call to having a space, whichever form it will take, would also be a call to students of color who may not be involved in the comedy groups on campus as of now.
There are about six groups on campus, seven if we include the comedy publication The Zamboni. But just like the grass is green, and the sky is blue, and Tufts is located in the greater Medford/Somerville area, these groups consist largely of White people. This isn’t to say that there are no people of color involved in these groups, one of them being myself.
But after speaking to a handful of ridiculously witty people of color on campus, a resistance to joining these groups stems from the fact that “it just seems like a White people thing.”
And as of right now, they would not be wrong.
Comedy groups are well aware of the lack of people of color within groups, and audition processes as well as sketch pitch meetings have attempted to foster inclusion of POC. But a person of color’s fear of being tokenized for the sake of fulfilling the minority quota of a comedy group supersedes these attempts however sincere they may be.
Besides, the comedy of people of color is rich beyond the prospects of inclusion, and deserves to be celebrated as its own entity. Having more people of color in the groups that currently exist is a definitive improvement. But I have personally found that pitching a sketch centered around my experiences as a person of color in a writer’s room or meeting with a majority of White faces can be not only daunting, but also not as helpful to the comedy itself. How can a room of White people tell me what I do and do not need to cut to make a sketch more succinct if they cannot necessarily relate to the content? Even if they are funny and smart White people who I respect, I’m not going to be as prone to suggestion if the locality from which they are speaking is not within the margins of my own.
So here’s where I reiterate to you what I know is necessary: A comedy space for people of color and by people of color matters!
There is no denying the voracity of a group of people of color getting together in one physical place to write jokes and make each other laugh. It could start as a community rather than a performance group, with a night for people to get together and watch their favorite comics of color together. Starting this way ensures that writing and performing is less of a pressure and more of a natural progression for those who wish to be involved in comedy but never have been before.
Basically, this is less of a call for a comedy space centered around people of color, and more of me telling you that this is what is to come! As soon as I find a room and make a Facebook event! Which I will then post in “POCC (People of Color Comedy)” and beyond! See you there!