Claire K. Yoo ’23 and Charlotte J. Daniels ’23 want to make sure that one point is on record: Their “dream is to make people happy.”
For them, the way to achieve their dream is through the Harvard College Stand-up Comic Society (commonly referred to as HCSUCS, and jokingly pronounced “HC sucks”) — an open community of stand-up comedians who host regular performances, jam sessions, and workshops. HCSUCS is open to everyone, and provides a space for anyone who is interested in stand-up to stop by, listen, or, as Yoo puts it, “riff, as the industry lingo goes…”
Yoo and Daniels, who served as co-presidents for the previous calendar year, both found HCSUCS early on in their Harvard experience. “I had no intention of doing stand-up comedy before college,” Yoo said. However, upon meeting Daniels through an improv group, she was convinced to try it out. “And so I went to a meeting. And it was just a spiral effect. It's just so fun to be around funny people for an hour and a half every week, and just be silly,” she said.
Yoo has continued with stand-up ever since. As Daniels put it, “Now she’s a star. One of the brightest.”
Daniels also attended an early HCSUCS meeting in her freshman year, but was easily convinced to come back. “It was super awkward for me, but I just thought, ‘oh my God,’ all these people are so funny. They’re so cool and attractive. Everyone was so hot, and so I thought, ‘gotta come back,’” she said.
Current co-presidents, Ian S. Kimbell ’23 and Dylan R. Roy ’23, joined HCSUCS because they wanted to continue their involvement in comedy, but in a different way than in high school. “I liked the idea of doing stand-up for a while, but I’m from Indiana. There's not much to do with that. But I did speech competitions in high school, and so I put some jokes in there,” Kimbell said. “I wanted to do a pure joke. And so I got here and saw that this club existed. So that's how I joined.”
When Roy heard about the stand-up club in his freshman fall, he jumped ship from more theatrical-based organizations and joined, too.
A main attraction of HCSUCS for both sets of co-presidents was its inclusivity. “We know what it feels like to be part of a very small, maybe difficult to join part of comedy,” Yoo said. “A big part of what's so great about stand-up is that it really is truly open to everyone.”
“There's no audition, no nothing,” Kimbell added. “So you can come in. And once you come to your first meeting, you're on the same level, you can sign up to pitch as much material as anyone else.” HCSUCS hosts about two shows per month, and is committed to incorporating new voices into all performances. “We had the ‘Fresh Faces’ show recently, which is a yearly show, where we get people who are new to stand-up. So whether they're freshmen or seniors or even grad students, just try their hand at stand-up,” Roy said. “A lot of people who go have a really good time.
HCSUCS’s emphasis on being an open club has a large impact on the overall community and satisfaction of its members. “These are all people who are here in this room together every week, because we just enjoy laughing and being silly,” Yoo said. “And when you have that as the mission statement of a group, then it's just gonna be fun, and supportive, and you're never gonna feel like, ‘Oh, am I stupid?’ Because everyone's stupid, we're all stupid.”
The fun is not supposed to be limited to the members. A connection with the audience and the ability to engage them is crucial. “It's always been fun to perform here. Harvard's just like a serious place. Most people at Harvard want to laugh at some point,” Yoo said.
Although the group has had many fun performances and club meetings, there are moments that clearly stand out.
“One thing that I did last year was a normal stand-up, but with the central concept, that one of my hands was stuck in a peanut butter jar,” Kimbell said, to his and Roy’s laughter. “It was very funny. I later revealed that my other hand was stuck in a jar of wipes. And then at the end I revealed that my leg was stuck in a jar of cheese balls.”
Daniels’s favorite performance took place during the Quad show.
“One of the specific jokes that I had just written like 20 minutes before got a really big laugh. And I was so happy. It was just so nice that something that I had just written made people happy,” Daniels said. “I guess that's the dream. To make people happy.”