The Climate Comedy Cohort, a community of climate-curious comedians from across the United States, is determined to reenergize the public on the climate crisis topic by using humor.
“Engaging with the climate crisis in a way that doesn’t fill you with dread is in itself a fairly revolutionary act,” said Esteban Gast, creative director and co-founder of the Climate Comedy Cohort.
Gast and two others founded the cohort in May, along with Generation 180 and American University’s Center for Media and Social Impact. Research from the Center for Media and Social Impact informed the cohort’s comedy — studies found sillier jokes impact change and nihilistic ones do not.
“So we thought there was this really beautiful opportunity to have comedy from this place, a little bit more hope and solution Z and anger directed at the right people,” said Gast.
Paola Sanchez found out about the cohort from a friend and applied, hoping that it would stick. Along with being an actor, comedian and writer, she is also an organizer with the Sunrise Movement NYC.
“I think Paola is really special and unique in the way that she’s like living the work every day. And I think we wanted people like that. But we also wanted people who were very interested and curious but felt stuck,” said Gast.
“There’s truly nothing more absurd and hilarious than the fact that I was the generation that has to save the world from the apocalypse,” said Sanchez.
The cohort is a selective bunch. Over 120 applicants applied with only 9 selected. Members come from all around the United States and fall somewhere on the spectrum between climate activist and educator to full-fledged comedians.
The cohort is less than two months old, and just had its first convention where members met in person in New York City. They plan to do social media takeovers and stand-up shows prior to the midterm elections in November.
The cohort had three different think tanks, about basic climate education, electric cars, solar power and climate justice. Along with this learning aspect of the group, they have a writers room every Friday where members can pitch ideas.
“And that on top of the fact that we’re just generating ideas like crazy, we’re coming in every single week with like 20 to 25 new ideas,” said Sanchez.
The cohort finds comedy a useful way to get through to experts and cut through pretense. Gast recalled Sanchez asking a speaker if oil and gas companies were just greedy. That kind of “forthrightness,” as Sanchez called it, makes information more accessible.
“[Change] starts with the culture first, and we are culture builders,” said Sanchez. “So that’s what’s the most exciting to me about this is shifting the culture and shifting the conversation.”