Laughing Through 2020: Thin Line Comedy

“Covid hasn’t completely taken away my ability to taste, it’s like my tongue is whispering the flavors to me.

Me: *takes a sip*

My tongue: ᵃᵖᵖˡᵉ ʲᵘᶦᶜᵉ”

Senior classical acting major Hayden Cannon tweeted this joke while in the throes of his COVID-19 illness in July. 

Though he could only receive virtual applause from a social media audience during his two-week quarantine, Cannon also performs regularly in the Sterling R. Church Auditorium, as a founder and member of Southern Utah University’s comedy club “Thin Line Comedy.”

In 2017, Hayden Cannon, Tanner Horan and Josh Bowman founded Thin Line Comedy as a place on campus to laugh and perform improvised sketches.

The trio had performed improv together in high school and wanted a place to continue to workshop comedy and see if there was an interest from other students as well. 

A successful and well received first show in December 2018 encouraged the founders to expand Thin Line.

Three years after its creation, Thin Line Comedy is a well-established club at SUU with more students joining every year, and they are still working to bring laughter despite the coronavirus.

This year their repertoire included several shows before the pandemic hit focused on certain topics and aspects of comedy, such as a comedy cage match called “Love Sucks” for Valentines Day and “St. Thin Line’s Day” on St. Patrick’s Day. 

They have also expanded to include an advanced long form improv team. This audition team creates an entirely unscripted, improvised play instead of just individual scenes. This year they operated under the name TBD “To Be Determined” and performed several shows pre-pandemic. 

Whether well-versed in the art of humor, or the last person to get a joke, any level of experience is welcome in Thin Line Comedy. Each of the current members had a completely different history with humor when they first stepped onto the Sterling R. Church Auditorium stage. 

Camille Osborn, a junior theater major who serves as one of the presidents of Thin Line, has always loved performing, and she did theater in high school, but had never done improv before Thin Line. She describes herself as being funny since she was little, so when she heard about the club as a freshman, she had to try it.

“I was stressed and out of my comfort zone. But now I can get on stage and do a set that works and that people enjoy. It’s been so incredible to see how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned.” Osborne said.

The name “Thin Line Comedy” comes from the quote by popular American humorist Erma Bombeck: “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” 

Osborn explained that the team works to walk that line in their comedy.

“It definitely takes practice. But that’s what our meetings are for, to work on and get better at comedy,” Osborn said.

Walking that line has become more challenging this year due to the pandemic. The social distancing and mask restrictions implemented by SUU and mandates from the governor changed the way Thin Line operated in 2020.

“These were definitely hard things to work around in comedy. Facial expressions can be a crucial part of a comedian’s performance, especially in improv,” Cannon said. “People still wanted to do improv though, so we continued to practice even with masks on.”

Improv is the specialty of this club, so they found ways to adapt and improvise their way through an unprecedented year. They focused more on stand-up comedy because it limits the number of performers to one, allowing for better social distancing.

In November they performed “Laugh the Pain Away,” a stand-up comedy show, in the Sterling R. Church Auditorium on SUU campus. Despite mask wearing, audience size and spacing restrictions and getting rained out of the original performance location on the Gerald R. Sherratt library quad, the show went on.  

The club members felt it was important to continue whenever and however possible despite restrictions in order to uplift and support each other during college, especially this year.

“I had no friends, no hobbies, and was just a nervous little freshman when I joined,” Osborn shared. “Now I’m getting to do something I love every week, I’ve made a ton of friends, gained confidence, and I get to help others in the same position I once was.” 

Thin Line is just as much a club for those who need a laugh as it is for those performing. An audience is critical for any comedian because a joke isn’t funny until, or is only funny because, someone laughs. 

Senior outdoor education, parks and tourism major Luke Marshall said that performers judge themselves based on the reaction they receive from their audiences. Hearing laughter gives him a “sense of pride and encouragement” offers an opportunity for people to come together.

“Laughter unites us,” Marshall said. “It allows us to lower our barriers with one another and just be present at that moment together. We need laughter now more than ever before.”

Although many of the founding members have graduated or are graduating this year, Thin Line will continue to provide SUU students the opportunity to workshop any and all comedy efforts into the next school year and beyond, with the hopes of more shows, more members and more laughter.

“Thin Line is more than just a club. It’s a place of laughter, friendship, and growth,” said sophomore business marketing and theater major Caleb Alexander. “Every person is important and has something to offer in Thin Line.” 

Especially during this collectively challenging time, laughter is essential. Join Thin Line Comedy for club meetings every Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Sterling R. Church Auditorium. Come ready to “laugh the pain away.”

Story By: Larissa Beatty
Photos courtesy of Thin Line Comedy