By: Jeremy Koffsky  | 

A Message to Underclassmen from The Comedy Club guy

Overwhelmed. That's the feeling I felt on Aug. 26, 2019, my first day of Yeshiva University. My teachers were talking about the syllabus, a word I just learned. My shiur was confusing and most of my friends were having fun back in Israel for their shana bet. Why did I jump in here so fast? There was so much to learn. Too much. As these thoughts entered my brain, so did others. Fleeting feelings of excitement popped in. A feeling of infinite potential. A strong voice entered my head saying “I know I can thrive here.”

The next six months at YU were a blast. I made dozens of friends and went to every event I could. The Seforim Sale, YUNMUN, Torah Tours and Poetry Night. All around me I saw Juniors and Seniors making the most of the community and executing their visions.

It felt like so much was happening all the time, and I loved it, until one day, all of a sudden, that stopped. We had a COVID case. I went home abruptly, leaving all my belongings behind, assuming I’d be back soon. I wasn’t.

In the year that followed, I longed for everything I had gotten in those first six months. A basketball game, a barbecue, a lunch with more than one other person. Summer turned to fall and fall to spring, and while being on campus during the 2020-2021 school year and making a Purim Shpiel was somewhat satisfying, it was nothing like that community I had seen in my first six months. 

Thank God, that all returned this year. That fleeting excitement I had felt was no longer overwhelming; it felt like a call to action. I sat in the library that first week and thought to myself, “what can I do?” I need to create something like what those upperclassmen had done my first year here. One day, a wide-eyed sophomore approached me and asked if there were any stand-up comedy opportunities on campus. Not that I’m aware of, I answered. Then it struck me: The YU Comedy Club. 

I thought for weeks about how to design an event that would make people comfortable expressing themselves. I formed a board to help me. We put together an Open Mic Night on Oct. 19. I had it all figured out in my head, though lingering questions remained. Would people show up? Would enough students perform? I hoped for 30-40 students, but we got over 80. I hoped for five performers, we got 15. To help give people a space to be creative and vulnerable was immensely meaningful to me.

Two more events followed, through which an astonishing thing happened: a collaborative community of performers discussing methods and jokes sprang up. People kept asking when the next event was. It was amazing to see. I scribbled an idea on a notebook, and all of a sudden, 100 people were coming to see the idea come to fruition. 

My message to underclassmen reading this would be to dream big. It's cliche, but it's true. If you set up a club or event the right way, spectacular things can happen. There will be challenges: Funding might be hard, your date may conflict with others and even executing simple things can be difficult. But there is nothing like the feeling of executing a vision and bringing joy to others. This community has infinite potential. I sincerely hope I can inspire those younger than me to do everything they can to bring people together as the upperclassmen did for me back in 2019. 
One final note: When Conan O'Brien lost The Tonight Show, a job he had dreamed of having for years, his final monologue included a statement about his situation. “I hate cynicism –– it's my least favorite quality, and it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen.” Throughout YU there is plenty to be cynical about: COVID testing, core requirements or course registration. Pick your poison. It changes every month. But if you look past that and try to elevate the community instead of harping on its shortcomings, I’m telling you: amazing things will happen.

Photo Credit: SJ Tannenbaum 

Photo Caption: The first Open Mic Night, Oct. 19, 2021