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Funny Girl

Aliza Small, A15

It’s 11 on Friday night and Sophia Gordon Hall is sweltering. Hundreds of students are pressed into every seat to see the show, thanks to Aliza Small, the first female director of The Institute, Tufts’ sketch comedy crew. “It’s so rewarding to see that rabid horde, because it means we’re doing something right,” she jokes.

A few stats of pride for what Aliza (pronounced A-leez-a) laughingly calls her “personal reign of horror” at the helm of The Institute to shake things up for the better: She marched into the TUTV boardroom to significantly increase funding for the group; it’s led to better sets, costumes, and video production. Since then, the number of auditions has doubled, because she looked beyond the improv community to bring in rising and hidden talent. She uses the team as a vehicle for development; good sketches are workshopped, boosted by brainstorms, and strutted onstage as a group effort.

Tradition, legacy, prowess: they’ve weighted her with pride and a drive that keeps her up nights, writing, coaching, and directing the group one step further. It’s a long way from suburban Chicago where she nursed her comedy chops on the late-night electric glow that was broadcast “live from New York!”—and it’s been thrilling. In this, her senior year, it’ll only get better.

For the self-described young Jewish comedian who “wasn’t even into legends like Mel Brooks or Lucille Ball—it’s embarrassing!” before an analytical dive into the comedy classics with Professor Joseph Litvak, tonight is a huge win. The pasta jewelry infomercial was particularly poignant when it took a 180, becoming an emotional saga of a man trying to win back his wife. “It was a very ‘Oh, that’s what comedy can do’ moment,” she beams.

But Aliza’s so much more than the funny girl brandishing the baton, this Chi Omega sister “who couldn’t help but rush” because of the kinship and community outreach. She’s the undercover filmmaker whose fiction classes with Michael Downing have woven her love of storytelling into the artistry of cinema that she nurtured at the ExCollege. She’s the poet who strengthens her comedy with “the emotional intelligence and awareness” she’s found in Ginsberg and Auden. And she’s the aspiring comedy writer with Tufts-launched dreams of Second City stages and NBC studios across the nation. She’s filled the halls of the Hill with laughter and set the stage—and the bar—for those to come.

“For every class, every professor, every friend who’s stayed up all night with me to get that one project or sketch just right, thank you,” she says. “I’m learning so much about who I am as a person and what I’m capable of giving back to the world in my own way.”

Questions? Contact the Tufts Fund at  617.627.4930 |