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A Celebration of Comedic Arts at ELA

Alumni filled the Bill Bordy Media Conference Center at Emerson College Los Angeles (ELA) on April 6 for a cocktail reception to celebrate a night of young Emersonians working in comedy.

Recent graduate Marcos Gonzalez ’16, who was heavily involved with the sketch comedy troupe Jimmy’s Traveling All-Stars in Boston, has already made a splash in the comedy scene in LA.

“When I was at ELA, I interned at Funny Or Die and they hired me when I graduated,” said Gonzalez. “I pitched them my political satire character, Jorge Ortiz, and it went from there.”

Alumni Michael Blaiklock '06 and Marcos Gonzalez '16. Photo/Daryl Paranada

The sketch videos, dubbed Very News 9 with Jorge Ortiz, feature Gonzalez as a fictional reporter asking passersby questions meant to garner laughs. The videos were shared online in 2016 and helped Gonzalez gain a web following. Earlier this year, Gonzalez moved from Funny Or Die to Comedy Central, which is now producing a web show based on Jorge Ortiz, as well as a Snapchat Discover page.

“I was part of the first class to graduate with a Comedy minor,” said Gonzalez, who took the ELA-UCB improv course in his final semester.

In Fall 2016, Emerson became the first college in the United States to offer a specialized Bachelor of Fine Arts in Comedic Arts. Professor Martie Cook, associate chair of Visual and Media Arts and director of the Comedic Arts program, is the driving force behind the major.

“The comedy major is alive and well,” Cook happily told the crowd during the cocktail reception.  

Professor Martie Cook addresses the crowd during a mixer for alumni in comedy. Photo/Daryl Paranada

Well known for its comedic legacy in the entertainment industry, Emerson College has several successful alumni working in comedy in film and television. Cook spoke about the College’s Comedic Arts degree, which focuses on preparing students for careers in comedy performance, writing, and production.

“We have a 50-50 split of men and women [in the major]. They are the highest academic achievers in the College, which makes sense, because you have to be smart to write good comedy,” said Cook, with loud whoops of agreement from the crowd. 

Brittany Rochford ’14, who graduated with a BA in Writing for Film and Television and currently works on a preschool show for Nickelodeon, said she was excited when she heard about Emerson launching a comedy major.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “Emerson is always making advances in the entertainment community and this is just another great step.”

Faculty members, staff, and alumni mingle during a comedy mixer at ELA. Photo/Daryl Paranada

For Cook, the major marks only the beginning.

“We're Emersonians; we dream big,” she said. “We are currently partnered with Funny Or Die and [Upright Citizens Brigade], both of which offer classes at ELA, but we have plans to expand.”

Tesha Kondrat ’13, a staff writer on the Adult Swim stop-motion sketch comedy series Robot Chicken, expressed her enthusiasm for Cook’s efforts in implementing the Comedic Arts major.

“It’s a very exciting time for comedy,” said Kondrat, who won one of the raffle prizes, an iPad, given away during the event. 

For Cook, there is an endgame. “Our overall goal is to become the premier place in the country for all things comedy,” she said.