This Cal Baptist University major is a laughing matter
By Ryan Hagen
This week’s lessons included wacky facial expressions, exotic animals appearing on stage and one man matching the increasingly absurd motions of the other to fool him into thinking he’s looking at a mirror.
It may seem like a funny way to spend your time in an upper-division college course, but getting laughs is serious business for California Baptist University students seeking a bachelor’s degree in Comedic Arts.
The third full week of the semester was a typical one for these students with an atypical major.
Cal Baptist, located in Riverside, is one of three universities in the United States with a major in Comedic Arts and the only one on the West Coast or with a Christian focus to the degree, said John Pate, who launched the program in fall 2016.
Pate, who’s chair of the school’s Communication department, also knows comedy first-hand.
His stand-up career includes opening for comedian Red Skelton from 1991 to 1997. His emphasis was clean comedy. He worked with the Red Skelton Foundation and Lothian Skelton, the entertainer’s widow, to start the program.
The program has two students majoring in it, two students taking it as a minor and a handful of others dipping into the course offerings as electives.
“We expect it to grow this spring when we advertise it,” Pate said Thursday, Feb. 1, in an office decorated with photos of himself alongside Skelton, Jay Leno, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. (“He has a great sense of humor,” Pate said of the jurist.)
“At the end of five years, we’ll look at how many people we have (enrolled) and evaluate it then,” Pate said.
What’s the deal with a comedy major?
Cracking jokes isn’t the most stable profession, Pate said.
“The decade from 1985 to 1995 is never going to be replicated,” he said, pointing to the proliferation […]