ISU professor helps teach comedy class

Alex Cory

For many students at Iowa State, classes are no laughing matter.

However, for the students in Iowa State’s Comedy College seminar, laughter is the final.

In the seminar, taught by professional entertainer Gavin Jerome, students learn to create and deliver stand-up comedy material in a classroom environment.

According to his website,, Jerome has worked in the entertainment industry for over 20 years. He’s also had the opportunity to work with entertainers like Jerry Seinfeld and Steve Harvey.

For the past ten years, Jerome has been working as a public speaker and has spoken to numerous companies. He’s made appearances at 3M, The Principal Financial Group, Target and IBM. 

After developing their skills during the course of the class, students deliver their final eight- to 10-minute routine in the Maintenance Shop of the Memorial Union. The seminar is sponsored by the Iowa State University Honors Program.

Peter Orazem, university professor of economics, loves comedy and has helped Jerome teach the class.

“If you write a joke, and you’re on stage, and it kills, it just feels great,” Orazem said. “You get a real adrenaline rush when you work on a bit, you practice it in the shower, you wonder if something like this is gonna fly and it does.”

When Orazem isn’t teaching or working on comedy he serves on the Ames City Council as the representative from Ward 3. The third ward extends from south of Mortensen road over to the western region of Ames. Orazem was elected to an at-large position on the council in 2010, and won the Ward 3 seat in the 2013 elections. He has since served in the position since 2014.  

Orazem said the skills taught in comedy class can be carried over to students’ academic and professional careers. He said editing is key, as when a comedian is trying to move from the setup to the punchline as fast as possible, less can often be more.

“You don’t need adjectives in comedy,” Orazem said.

He said his experience with comedy has transferred over to his teaching, as there are many parallels to giving an effective lecture and an effective performance, especially in regards to keeping the audience engaged.

Teaching students how to deal with the fears and uncertainties of performance is also a key part of the class.

“Gavin gives them on the first day the ‘no suck’ guarantee, which is, ‘if you are willing to put in the time, we will make sure you have a good experience,’” Orazem said.

Orazem said no students have ever frozen up on stage.

Mechanical engineering senior and president of the comedy club Nicholas Seymour, said that Comedy College heavily improved his communication skills.

“I used to hate speech, but after taking comedy class I enjoy it a lot more,” Seymour said.

Seymour said that before taking Comedy College, he would never land interviews after career fairs, but now he’s gotten many offers after improving his confidence.

“I really think it improved my personability,” Seymour said.

After taking Comedy College, Seymour helped to start the comedy club to give students a place to work on jokes and practice delivery. Seymour said that the students in comedy club can carry these skills with them for the rest of their lives.

“If you can deliver eight minutes of stand-up, you can do anything,” Orazem said.

Iowa State’s comedy club webpage says that if students join they will not be forced to go onstage until they feel that they have a solid act planned out. 

For those interested in joining the Iowa State’s comedy club, a weekly meeting is held in Carver 0032 at 6:10 p.m. every Tuesday.