GVSU club helps members face public speaking through laughs

Ben Glick

Most of the time, public speaking is something we have to do, not something we necessarily want to do. But for some people, getting up in front of crowds can be something they enjoy doing—even making people laugh in the process. Grand Valley State University’s Comedy Club is made up of members who frequently face fears of public speaking, all with the goal of getting a few chuckles from the audience.

“It’s kind of our goal to get people who have never done stand-up to do it,” club president Aric Pike said. “Anyone with any experience in comedy is welcome, and anyone can benefit from this.”

The GVSU Stand Up Comedy Club works on developing members’ confidence to become better performers and speakers. Both club leaders and other members perform regularly for the club’s bi-weekly shows that appear in Area 51 in the Kirkhof Center. The club’s membership has also expanded since its inception in 2012, growing from four members to eleven.

Club members hope that skills learned in the organization will help them not only in their performances, but also in their immediate and long-term futures.

“We want to boost confidence, because whether it is telling jokes, providing information for class or for business, you can really apply stand-up skills in anything,” club officer Vince Persichetti said.

But both Pike and Persichetti recognize other students’ reluctance of performing in front of groups of people.

“When people say ‘I’m not funny,’ it doesn’t matter,” Pike said. “Once they see others doing it, they’ll be more confident they can, and once they do, they realize how much fun they have while doing it. They’ll just want to get better.”

The club’s first stand-up show took place Sept. 24 in Area 51.

“We really got started at the right time and place,” Pike said. “Except for a couple of seats, the house was full and the audience really enjoyed (the show).”

Despite a growing interest in the club and its activities, club officers do not plan to alter their laid-back approach.

“We aren’t demanding,” Persichetti said. “We don’t ask a lot more of our members than to just participate, get involved with events, get people to the shows, and just be a part of the club.”

Members are not expected to perform at every show, and no dues are required to join.

“We just figure this kind of thing intimidates some people,” Persichetti said. “But once they come and see what (the club) is like, most people get hooked. We’re more lenient and comfortable.”

But the club remains dedicated to evolving its members’ comedic skills.

“After we perform onstage at one of the shows, we meet later (and) we discuss each other’s routine,” Pike said. “We discuss what we did well, offer tips and constructive criticism.”

Aside from its own shows, the club has also had members compete in the campus-wide comedy contest, Last Laker Standing, and plans to have members take part in the Grand Rapids Laugh Fest.

“We are also planning on spreading out to other open-mic venues around Grand Rapids like the B.O.B., River Front and Tip Top,” Persichetti said.

Still, the club’s focus is on its own members.

“We want (the club) to be a constructive and safe place where people can explore comedy,” Pike said.

For more information, visit the club’s Facebook Page or Orgsync account, or attend a meeting. Meetings are held every Wednesday in Area 51 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.