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Zoe Yellen '13: Found Her Humor at F&M

  • Zoe Yellen '13
  • Meet Zoe Yellen '13, Franklin & Marshall College's first comedy major. She has a passion for making people laugh. (Photo By Melissa Hess)


A profile of Zoe Yellen '13 is part II of "Faces of the Class of 2013," a series on the academic and extracurricular interests of graduating seniors.

Hometown: Briarcliff, N.Y.
Academic Major: Special Studies (comedy); minor in Judaic studies

Some might say college is no laughing matter, but not Zoe Yellen '13. She's laughing all the way to her graduation.

Yellen is Franklin & Marshall College's first student to major in comedy, according to the Registrar's Office. Yet, it wasn't a pursuit she had entertained before arriving on campus. It was not until well into her first year that she found her humor.

"The way I feel about it is the way other people feel about sciences -- a lot of passion and care go into it," Yellen said of comedic performances. "I really like being able to make people smile and laugh."

With no designated comedy curriculum at F&M, Yellen crafted her own under special studies that included film, writing and sociology courses.  She included sociology to study society.

"(Sociology) is figuring out how to connect with different groups," Yellen said.

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It takes all kinds to make a world. Learning to communicate with them no doubt will serve a comedienne whose success depends on reaching new audiences night after night.

Yellen said F&M's intimate setting helped her comedic pursuits. "I really appreciate the fact that the classes are small and the professors are accessible," she said.

The highlights of her academic career included her independent study, where she made short comedy films, and her research paper on sketch comedies. "I analyzed why they're funny and what's great about them," she said.

When she wasn't studying comedy, Yellen was performing comedy, just one of her extracurricular activities.

"It's one of those things that's more than extracurricular," Yellen said. "It's what I want to be doing forever."

Yellen co-founded a comedy club, the Jesters, with fellow student Eric Mellis '13 in her sophomore year. The Jesters are the College's only student-run group dedicated to writing, performing, and observing stand-up comedy. They performed regularly on and off campus.

"It's a small club, but the people that are in it really care about it," Yellen said.

Yellen also was a member of Rumspringa Improv Club. "I really like doing 'improv' more than I like doing standup, so it was really cool to be part of both," she said.

It wasn't all fun and games for Yellen at F&M. As a member of F&M Hillel, Yellen put comedy aside for some humanitarian work, spending a week in El Paso, Texas, helping Habitat for Humanity. The experience left a lasting impression on her.

"All of the people that we worked with who were from El Paso displayed an unbelievable sense of passion, which made the work we did so much more meaningful and fun," Yellen said.

Yellen's fallback plan was Judaic studies, but her academic and extracurricular success -- her comedy routine won at ShamRock the Stage, an annual philanthropic talent show organized by members of Kappa Delta sorority -- convinced Yellen she had the talent to be a comedienne.

Yellen's after-college plan is to enroll in improv classes in New York City -- a short hop by train from home -- and get comedic experience to make more people laugh.