For junior media and communications student Samuel Heavens, nothing is more important than entertaining, informing and educating an audience, especially when he gets to convey his messages through comedy.
As a quick conversation would show, Heavens is well spoken, overwhelmingly polite and certainly not the traditional Northwest student. Heavens’ natural accent and courteous attitude were homegrown in Sawston, Cambridgeshire in England, a town he has recently set aside in order to study abroad in his efforts to expand his knowledge on mass communication.
Leaving family and friends on the other side of the world to fly by oneself to places unknown can be intimidating to say the least, but passion is what keeps Heavens going.
Heavens knew another student from his university back home who studied abroad at Northwest and made the most of their time. Heavens saw opportunity to test his mettle, and he took it.
“I thought I’d like to experience what life is like abroad, how I’d cope with it individually,” Heavens said. “It was a personal venture to see how I would develop as a person and how I would develop my character. For me, there has always been a cloud of doubt surrounding studying in America, but being here has reaffirmed that I would like to work abroad.”
After he goes back to his family, Heavens wants to eventually make his way back to America, but this time he has his eyes on a West Coast location.
This can be credited to the surprising ease Heavens found during his transition to the United States. The preparations he made during his studies and time back home are what Heavens feels trained him to appreciate and learn from other cultures.
Grace Thompson, a first year journalism student at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom, has been close friends with Heavens for a little more than three years. One of her favorite memories with Heaven is when he went with her to donate blood, despite his fear of needles. Thompson is passionate about donating blood, so Heavens’ willingness to support her was an important moment in their friendship.
“He said ‘I’m going to come with you and I want to donate,’ and honestly, it was the most incredible thing I had heard,” Thompson said. “We went together; I told the nurses that this was his first time, and they looked after him really well. One pint later, he was a blood donor. I was so proud of him and incredibly touched that he had decided to come with me to donate - I’m still proud of him to this day.”
Heavens is proud of how far he has come, but he still understands his time as a media communications student was not always so concrete. From when he was young to today, the thing Heavens is most passionate about is one the most basic of human abilities: laughter.
“An endgame would be to be a producer on a comedy series,” Heavens said. “Comedy, as a genre in television and film, is quite personal to me because that is kind of how I got into the industry. Having that ability to make mass audiences laugh, giving them escapism or something that is positive, I think, is quite important. Being able to play a part in that on a mass audience scale is something truly beautiful.”
To Heavens, comedy is multi-layered. Comedians with stand-up routines can write material for hours on end so their jokes tell stories and evoke specific, relatable emotions. Other forms of comedy, however, take a more simple approach. Though this approach is just as effective.
Comedians like Johnny English and Mr. Bean are what drew Heavens into the art of making others laugh, and he has never looked back.
“It all originated with Rowan Atkinson, him being a spy and that sort of slapstick humor,” Heavens said. “Mr. Bean’s whole concept has him rarely saying few words in English. Yet, on a global audience scale, people recognize him and can engage with the humor. If you look at that analytically, it is incredible how so many people can engage with something so simple in essence.”
Heavens says he feels the world is largely conflicted in terms of culture and politics. He says having more things like comedy connecting the population on a deeper level is something the general public should strive toward and promote.
What is perhaps Heavens’ favorite quote reflects his feelings on the importance of a lighthearted world. The quote comes from comedian Kenneth Williams.
“What can you say at the end of the day?” Heavens recited. “Was the plot so sound or the lines profound? Was there rather less grain than chaff? What can you say at the end of the day? You can say you made them laugh.”
From working with the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) to working weekly on Catatouille, Heavens manages to stay busy in his pursuit of one day producing a comedy series.
Though his time with the BBC was limited, he still gained valuable experience, helping out behind the scenes and writing the occasional article.
Heavens says working with the BBC, while valuable, in some ways was just as beneficial as working with student organizations. From everything he has done to everywhere he has gone, if Heavens has learned one thing, it is the weight that drive and work ethic carry.
“It sounds cliché, but I find working with student shows here to be rewarding in the sense that I’m working with a different group of people than I would at home,” Heavens said. “It is a different kind of environment. It showed me that anyone from any background with any sort of experience can enter the industry.”
His advice is not limited to just those looking to move forward in their desired careers; it is advice he feels everyone should at least give a listen to.
“A lot of it is recognizing that putting dedication, effort and commitment to joining an industry can place anyone well within their means to do so,” Heavens said. “I think it is just being able to have that self-confidence in your abilities and learning from anything you do. If you don’t take these opportunities, you can’t expand your skill set.”
Kassie Emme, sophomore video production major and producer for Catatouille, says most others, herself included, view Heavens has an endlessly driven person. Despite this relentlessly studious attitude, she does not feel Heavens sacrifices his admirable personality.
“Samuel is someone that will not rest until a project is near perfect in his eyes,” Emme said. “He has been a great help on Catatouille, and I really enjoy hearing his perspective on the production. He is also very confident in his work and demeanor. I think he makes a phenomenal first impression.”
Heavens’ trip to becoming a Bearcat started at Northwest, but he will always be in hot pursuit of any goals that come his way, whether it be through comedy or not.
He has one piece of advice for anyone who is ever questioning their own abilities.
“Have the confidence in yourself in order to push the horizons that you want to see,” Heavens said. “If you have the ability to believe in yourself and to work on yourself, then any dream you have doesn’t have to be a dream.”