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College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

Humorist in Residence

By Teri Rizvi

Brooklyn-based comedian Karen Chee has traded “hotel life” for a TV studio. Last year, Chee won an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2018 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and a two-week stay at the University of Dayton Marriott. Now, she’s part of an Emmy-nominated group of comedy writers on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Chee was one of two winners of the first A Hotel Room of One’s Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence program, an unconventional writing residency that offers emerging humor writers the gift of time to hole up in a hotel, write — and order free room service.

Chee interned for comedian and television host Samantha Bee before becoming a writer for Late Night and the 2019 Golden Globe Awards. During her Dayton residency, she wrote humor pieces that were published in The New Yorker and The Washington Post.

“The uninterrupted time in Dayton absolutely helped me focus on my career,” she said. “What a gift to have time dedicated fully to my work, rather than worrying about chores and bills and everything else that goes with life.”

Applications are now being accepted through Sept. 23 for the second Humorist-in-Residence competition. The two winners will receive free registration to the University of Dayton Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, April 2-4, 2020. They also will spend two blissful weeks at the Dayton Marriott, the workshop’s official hotel and an in-kind sponsor.

Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry and best-selling novelist Adriana Trigiani are this year’s finalist judges.

“This is an opportunity for funny writers to deep dive into their comedic voices and create without limitations,” said Anna Lefler, a Los Angeles novelist and comedy writer who conceived and funded the program. “I would be thrilled for this program to provide the catalyst for emerging comedy writers to break through with their art.”

San Francisco-based writer, copywriter and editor Samantha Schoech was last year’s other Humorist-in-Residence winner. She spent the time working on Lucky Like That, a collection of funny personal essays that is now completed and being shopped around by her agent.

The competition opens Tuesday, Sept. 3, with all online applications due by midnight (EDT) Tuesday, Sept. 24. Winners will be announced Nov. 12. It is open to all aspiring humor writers regardless of gender or comedic point of view. Writers working on novels, narrative nonfiction, plays, essays, sitcom scripts and other humor writing are encouraged to apply, with special consideration given to emerging writers. The application fee is $25. Entries will be blind-judged by preliminary and finalist judges, all established writers.

As part of the residencies, the winners will write funny essays about their experience living and writing at the Dayton Marriott for the workshop’s blog; meet with University of Dayton classes to discuss the writing journey; and tweet amusing observations from the hotel using such hashtags as #HotelLOL, #RoomServiceWriter and #LaughInn.

A self-described “lifelong fangirl and devotee of Erma Bombeck,” Lefler said she was inspired to start the program because, much like the popular biennial workshop, it has the potential to transform a writer’s life.

“The chance to step away from your everyday responsibilities to concentrate on your humor writing and unlimited tiny soaps? The comedy practically writes itself,” said Lefler, author of the humor books Preschooled and The Chicktionary, and a three-time faculty member at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

Founded in 2000, the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop has been dubbed the “Woodstock of Humor.” It’s the only workshop in the country devoted to both humor and human interest writing and is so popular that it typically sells out within hours. In 2019, The Writer magazine named it the best writing conference in Ohio and “THE conference for humor writers.”

For more information about the competition, please visit the Humorist-in-Residence program website.

For information about the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, please visit the workshop’s website.

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