Comedy Recruitment at Yale: Serious Business

The members of the Fifth Humour about to take a bow after their show.

Common among new students at Yale there is a sense of overwhelm caused by the sheer number of clubs, groups, and organizations trying to get your attention once you arrive on campus. From climbers to cooking collectives, club swimmers to collegiate singers, just about every group is looking for new members to join their ranks and reinvigorate their spaces with fresh energy. Admittedly, I belong to a group that is no different: The Fifth Humour.

The Fifth Humour tabling at the Extracurricular Bazaar.

Founded 30 years ago, The Fifth Humour is the oldest sketch comedy group at Yale and one of the many performance groups on campus that annually tries to recruit new talent into their midst. This year was no different, except this was my first year as Co-Director of the group — and boy was it a daunting task. The process primarily unfolds in three parts: the recruitment show, auditions, and callbacks.

Members of the Fifth Humour performing a silly Valentine's Day sketch

First – the show! As many people do not necessarily know what sketch comedy looks like on a college campus, the recruitment show is our best opportunity to illustrate to people 1) how funny we think we are (obviously) and 2) create buzz around the group that inspires more people who don’t necessarily have a background in comedy to come and try out. Every year, we perform this show with our sister/rival group Red Hot Poker, who is also competing for auditionees and the unspoken title of “funniest on campus.” This year, it was actually a fire hazard how many people showed up to the show. Evidence below:

The classroom we performed our recruitment show in, packed to the brim like sardines.
Capacity breach… 

Next – auditions! Now that we have created some hype around the group (hopefully), we have audition slots all throughout the next week where people can come and joke around with us. Some auditionees enter the room with years of theatrical experience under their belt, while others have never stepped foot on a stage in their life. The fun part about this process is that either type of auditionee has a shot — some current members of the group didn’t even know what sketch comedy was before trying out! We saw so many amazing people during this week, our job was made incredibly difficult.

Chalkboard drawing of the members of the Fifth Humour that auditionees take a picture with so we can remember their beautiful face!
Backdrop auditionees take a picture with so we can remember their beautiful faces!

Thirdly — callbacks! From all the auditionees, we invite some people back for a second round to see more of their comedic genius. This portion of the audition process is a bit more involved as we ask those called back to pitch their own sketch ideas, perform in some pre-written scenes, write an original sketch with an offered prompt, and tell us a true story. Once callbacks are over, we go late into the night deliberating who will join the group that year, or get “tapped,” and the decisions we make must be unanimous. As Co-Director, this part can be very harrowing as I wish we could call back and tap more people. Comedy is highly subjective and everyone who auditions is hilarious in their own gorgeous and unique way.

Me and two Humours performing a dancing sketch in a "Google Car"

Once deliberations are over, we can alert the new “taps” that they are officially part of The Fifth Humour — and the celebrations commence! The entire ordeal is incredibly exhausting, with hours of rehearsal and preparation. In the end, though, it is all worth it, as we love seeing the funny looks on our new Humours’ faces.