Comedy Writing class shines at club in Burbank, California

Accompanied by alumnus Jay Light ’12 and comedian Fahim Anwar, students in Assistant Professor Kai Swanson’s Elon Los Angeles course put their comedic chops to the test at The Nitecap, a popular venue for both up-and-coming and established comedians.

A group of Elon students pose in front of Nitecap sign.
Elon alumnus Jay Light ’12 (center) poses for a photograph with Comedy Writing students at The Nitecap, a comedy venue in Burbank, California. Pictured (from left) are Jason Adama-Tettey, Nate Romano, Casey Goldman, Carina Kaplan, Nathan Peterson, Emme Patat, Light, Carter Craig, Monty Lewis, Avery Van Dusen and Chad Gordon.

While The Nitecap, a comedy club in Burbank, California, often draws comedians from Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime and elsewhere, recent performers also included Elon University students enrolled in this summer’s Comedy Writing course.

As part of Assistant Professor Kai Swanson’s Study USA class, students have refined their comedic skills during the past few weeks, progressing from 90-second sketches to crafting 3-minute story-form joke sets, which they showcased at the Burbank venue. With their public performances behind them, the students are now expanding their sets into sketches and comedic short film scripts for their July 25 class showcase.

Elon students listen to Fahim Anwar at The Preserve.
During a wisdom session at The Preserve, home to the Elon Los Angeles program, comedian Fahim Anwar (center) listens while talking with students in this summer’s Comedy Writing course. Pictured (from left) are Katie Kapp, Assistant Professor Kai Swanson, Anwar, Carina Kaplan and Mackenzie Smith.

“It was amazing to see the students up there, full of energy and confidence,” said the assistant professor of cinema and television arts.

There was at least one familiar face in the crowd to see – and support – the Elon students perform: alumnus Jay Light ’12. An accomplished stand-up comedian, producer and podcaster, Light gained popularity from his appearances on Comedy Central’s “Roast Battle,” where he was praised by renowned roast master Jeff Ross. Light also hosts The Comedy Store’s “WRONG! A Dark Comedy Game Show.”

Swanson and the students both expressed their gratitude for Light’s support and an opportunity for the class to share its comedic talents publicly.

“I’m incredibly thankful to Jay for coming back for a third year to give our students feedback on how they structured their stand-up sets,” Swanson said. “And a big thanks to Aaron Mliner, owner of The Nitecap, for letting us practice at his club.”

Carina Kaplan, a junior majoring in strategic communications, said she enjoyed the chance to stretch herself creatively in front of a live audience and learn how she might improve.

“I loved hearing Jay’s feedback about our stand-up sets and felt he brought our attention to some basic fundamentals: style, undercutting, pacing, allowing room for laughs, clarity, and recovering from blanking,” she said.

Evan Smith, a junior double majoring in history and cinema and television arts, explained that witnessing Light’s success has given him confidence that he and his Elon classmates might be able to follow in his footsteps.

“Seeing that someone with a similar background is successful makes me more confident in the skills that Elon is teaching me,” Smith added.

Following their performances, the students participated in a Q&A session with stand-up comedian Fahim Anwar, known for his appearances on late-night shows and film and TV credits, including “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” “Neighbors,” and “Drunk History.” Additionally, Anwar also served as head writer and starred in a Comedy Central sketch show special with his comedy group Goatface, which includes alumni from “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show.”

“It was wonderful to see students open up and engage with Fahim, who graciously took time from his busy schedule to share stories and strategic advice from his extensive 20-plus-year career in the entertainment industry.”

– Kai Swanson
assistant professor of cinema and television arts

Kaplan noted how valuable Anwar’s advice was, providing insight into clip economy, his experience with taking career leaps, the art of refining material, and how to grow through mistakes.

“His advice about putting in the work resonated with me,” she said.

Likewise, James Eaton ’25, a communication design major, appreciated Anwar’s charge not to give up on creative projects even if your resources are limited.

Jason Adama-Tettey, art major and game design minor, echoed his classmates’ sentiments, explaining that Light’s advice “opened my eyes about what I should do to expand my stand-up,” he said. Similarly, Adama-Tettey said he appreciated that Fahim touched on the possible career paths available to the students in the entertainment industry.

These invaluable takeaways were what Swanson imagined when the professor extended invitations to Light and Anwar to meet and mentor the students.

“The combination of performing at The Nitecap and learning from industry professionals like Jay and Fahim has profoundly enriched the students’ educational experience,” Swanson said. “We so appreciate their time, as well as their expertise.”