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"Faculty Lounge" Seeks to Bridge the Gap Between Students and Faculty

Although the Harvard College Stand Up Comic Society (HCSUCS) usually runs shows every week or so, the April 14 performance was not your run-of-the-mill show. The star comedians were not regular HCSUCS members, nor were they students at all. Instead, almost the entire show featured comedy sketches and routines by Harvard faculty. A personal project of over three months in the making, “Faculty Lounge” marks a bold new method of connection between professors, organizations, and the student body.

Joel Kwartler ’18, co-president of the HCSUCS, says that it took considerable time and effort to find faculty who were willing and able to participate. “I sent probably about 80 emails, I snuck around and found out where office hours were for high profile professors who kept them pretty secret,” he says. Many of the faculty he originally had in mind were unable to participate. “I don’t think anyone I ever took a class with is in the show.” However, “Faculty Lounge” has ended up with a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences.

The performance of the professors was remarkably professional, especially considering how brief a time they had to prepare a routine. Kwartler and the HCSUCS completed the training and rehearsal over the space of three weeks. Although HCSUCS members streamlined and supplemented the faculty’s act, the basic premises of the show were written by the professors and deans. Kwartler, who has several years of experience in stand-up comedy, says “if I was doing a show with eight first time freshmen or eight professors, the professors will probably be the better show.”

HCSUCS hosted the show to raise money for Y2Y and HSHS, two organizations that run shelters in Cambridge to serve the homeless population. Jeon Jun Kim ’18, finance director for HSHS, says that both organizations have played a significant role in managing the logistics of the show. “I deal mainly with the administrative parts…booking the venue, selling tickets,” he says.

Nathan Cummings ’18, fundraising director for Y2Y and former Crimson editor, believes that “Faculty Lounge” serves as a powerful new tool for organizations like Y2Y and HSHS to reach out to students. “One of the goals we have for Y2Y is to move towards more student involvement in terms of fundraising, more grassroots projects like these, small donations, events, benefits.” At the same time, Cummings says, “It’s not just about fundraising in the end. It’s also about developing a great relationship with the student body.” Overall, their efforts seem to have been a success, as two thousand dollars have been donated to charity from ticket sales.

The idea of having Harvard faculty perform stand-up comedy has been a long time in coming. Kwartler acknowledges it as a personal project of his, an idea he conceived in November 2017. “I always wanted to do some sort of benefit performance… it occurred to me that if professors would perform in stand-up, people would probably pay some small amount to see that.”

Next spring, Kwartler began reaching out to professors at the very beginning of spring semester. “I had the lineup set…a week or two before spring break.” Concerning Kwartler’s role in “Faculty Lounge,” Cummings says, “This is really his baby. He’s put so much time and effort into this show. If this succeeds, it will be entirely on his merit.”

Will “Faculty Lounge” change the way students think of their professors? Kwartler hopes so. “This is the first time we’ve had this--since 1636,” says Kwartler. “I think there’ll be stories about personal lives, or unusual habits or observations that they’ve picked up, that just would not come up in class”

At the moment, it is uncertain whether the “Faculty Lounge” will become a mainstay of the stand-up comedy scene at Harvard. Kim states, “If this works out, I hope that whoever succeeds our role will continue to do this.”

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