Seats filled fast, time passed quickly and laughter was abundant in the Del and Norma Robison Planetarium Friday evening. UpChuckles, Truman State University’s stand-up comedy organization, held its Forever Alone Comedy Show last week.
Echoes of amusement, shock and awe eagerly bounced across the observatory. With Valentine’s Day steadily approaching, student comedians shared romantic tales of both triumph and despair with enough humorous insight to keep attendees delightfully uncomfortable.
The location’s space constrictions, however, proved to be insufficient for the night’s sizable crowd, which was a pleasant surprise for its members.
“I was very impressed that we ran out of seats,” junior Michael Tortorello, an UpChuckles veteran, commented after the show. “We really like the planetarium, because it’s cool, right? But I don’t know if we complied with fire codes.”
Potential legal violations aside, Tortorello said that he was happy with the growing audience, noting that each successive show this school year has witnessed higher numbers. As the organization continues to build a stronger fan base, it is also in the process of increasing membership.
Fears of the club’s extinction surfaced at the end of last school year, as twelve members left and only a few remained. With UpChuckles’ recruitment endeavors, the group now survives at around 10 members. With this influx also comes inexperience, but new members have quickly adapted to the organization’s structure.
“We just kind of dive right in,” UpChuckles President Victoria Morrow said of integration efforts via workshopping. “You might have an idea, a concept — you might just have a story — each of us helps add on to a story. We help you find a structure. We help you find a way to deliver it.”
Joke conceptualization was described by Tortorello as different for everyone, but usually begins with an observation of daily oddities. After members write their observations down, they take them to meetings where members sit in a circle and offer constructive criticism.
For comedians, this step is crucial in planning performances. Feedback can provide useful ideas or suggest a different direction. Morrow said the casual meeting environment facilitates a wide variety of benefits beyond collaboration, including a sense of belonging and cathartic release.
“It’s something that’s very relaxing. Sometimes it’s very healing,” Morrow said. “When you’ve had a terrible week and maybe this is the only highlight. There have been times at college where I’ve been severely depressed or anxious, and this is my only solace sometimes. I just really love the people there. I really love being a part of it.”
Morrow joined the club her sophomore year following its back-to-school show. She had heard about the event through her teacher and UpChuckles adviser Jay Self, and was excited by its energy.
Tortorello became a member his freshman year and has been hooked ever since. While he also enjoys the organization’s fun antics, what resonates most are its transparent ambitions.
“Every organization on campus seems to have a big, ‘We’re going to solve world hunger,’ mission statement — except us,” Tortorello said, despite soon remembering their faculty show benefitting Buddy Packs.
The charity show is one of a few upcoming events the club looks forward to hosting in subsequent months. There, the club will invite University staff to tell their tales of hilarity in competition for a good cause.
Last year’s lineup included Don Bindner, Dereck Daschke, Chad Mohler, Chris Outzen, Dylan Phillips, Jocelyn Prendergast and Jared Young. Morrow said the club wishes to draw more female faculty this time around.
“We’re hoping to get more women in the show, compared to last year which was a lot of men,” Morrow said. “We want at least five. We have two people so far, both men, so we’d like more women to join.”
Last on the club’s agenda is a senior roast, a time for celebrating the year by playfully offending its eldest members. For Morrow, the event serves as an appropriate cap to her time with the organization.
For Tortorello, who still has a year to go, events are fun ways to share the club’s hard work with fans.
“I kind of wanna maximize the amount of shows we have, because this is great,” Tortorello said.
Boosting crowds and camaraderie is something the organization hopes to keep expanding upon in the future. While shows like the one last week help, weekly interactions are key to retaining membership.
“We just basically try to welcome them in, try to be kind,” Morrow explained.
Tortorello reiterated those sentiments, looking back on the club’s improvement over time. With higher audience turnout and participation, he sees this most recent show as the best yet.
“I’m excited with the direction we’re going,” Tortorello said.