Last Friday night, comedian Adam Mamawala performed in Baxter Hall as part of All-Campus Entertainment’s (ACE’s) Spring Fling Line Up. As he was listed on the website Funny or Die’s “30 Under 30 Comedians to Watch,” students piled into Paresky’s Baxter Hall with high expectations. While Mamawala delivered a few memorable jokes that brought hearty laughter to the crowds, most of his act was slow and nothing funnier than a friend telling a humorous story about a wacky event.
Mamawala set the bar high at the beginning of his act and was unfortunately unable to keep that momentum. He spoke about his unique last name and ethnically ambiguous appearance, explaining that he has an Indian father and an American mother (and joking that his “American Indian” identity is often misleading). He then described his childhood, saying that while he grew up with friends of both races, he noticed some cultural differences as he got older. One example that brought chuckles to the crowd was that he and his white friends lived by the motto “YOLO [you only live once],” to which his Indian friends would respond, “Eh … ”
He followed the “YOLO” joke with a story about another time he told the joke at a college in Alabama and how the crowd was silent until he explained the concept of reincarnation. While most of the audience at Alabama then laughed, he noticed one blank-faced girl and proceeded to ask her what she thought reincarnation meant. She replied, “Uh, I think it’s one of those pretty flowers you get at prom?”
From that point on, most of his performance was lackluster. Mamawala provided full context for the vast majority of his jokes. Unfortunately, he spent so much time on the background that at times the audience perceivably lost focus and tuned out. Even his stories about driving a car in a wifebeater and aviators while blasting Avicii failed to keep the audience engaged. The comedian clearly meant to tell stories that the audience could relate to but overshot his goal – they became ordinary and borderline boring. The stories were somewhat humorous, but their quality was closer to the tales of a funny friend than to the jokes of a professional comedian.
To give credit where credit is due, Mamawala had a respectable Barack Obama impression. The comedian discovered the President’s secret to making inspirational speeches: When Obama speaks, he takes three times as long as the average person does, which makes everything he says sound much more intelligent and rousing. To prove his point, Mamawala continued his impression by reading a selection of Snooki tweets in Obama’s voice: “This is the things that I’m addicted to: bronzer, boys and alcohol;” “I think my crotch is sticking out;” and “I honestly thought I broke my vagina bone.” While this act was hilarious, it was somewhat diminished by Mamawala’s inability to stay in character, as he broke the impression by laughing when he reached the end of each sentence.
In the vein of a friend talking about a funny memory, Mamawala concluded his act with another personal story that was far more interesting than his others. Like he did earlier, the comedian took awhile to set up one of his final jokes, discussing his ex-girlfriend, their relationship and his heartbreak (which was sweet but not what the audience came for). Finally he reached the humorous bit: After performing a show, he drove around and came across a Civil War museum in Maryland. While walking around the museum, Mamawala began crying uncontrollably, thinking about his girlfriend. When the other visitors noticed and a woman began to approach him, Mamawala thought about what he would say, as he did not want to reveal personal information to someone who did not care and knew he would never see her again. When the woman asked him what was wrong, Mamawala pointed to a picture, sobbed, “My son died in the war” and ran away.
There were some great highlights in Mamawala’s show but unfortunately, the comedian watered down the humor with too many superfluous details. Mamawala would be a great comedian to watch in short clips on YouTube, but he did not have enough quality material for an entire act. Maybe in a year or two he will refine his show and put on a great performance – but until then, I would stick to the clips.