Stand-up is just one person, armed with nothing but a mic, trying to make people laugh by telling jokes about various mundane aspects of life.
And yet, there’s something magical about humor and the way a good comedian can recount his last trip to the supermarket that will make us laugh until we cry. It’s as if they know just which hidden strings to pull to transform the everyday into a few precious moments of concentrated joy and laughter.
It shouldn’t come as a great surprise that the Office of Student Laughs (OSL) is filled with good comedians. And in its second-ever stand-up comedy show in Dodd living room on Saturday night, the jokes managed to turn the hour or so that the audience spent watching the show into so many connected instances of pure hilarity. While there were many repeat performers from the last show, several newcomers and non-OSL members were added to the mix.
To start the show off, Chris D’Silva ’18, an OSL member who organized the event, went up to the mic to do a short set. He also served as the emcee of the show, rattling off a joke or two to introduce each act.
D’Silva is your typical talented stand-up comedian: well-prepared, easygoing and ready to interact with the audience. After a joke about waking up too late for class, he transitioned conspicuously into a joke about using songs that you like to wake you up in the morning – “Alarm clocks are interesting. It’s a segue; I just talked about waking up. It works,” he said, drawing more laughs from the crowd.
His set then briefly became an ode to the rapper Riff Raff, whose music he’s been using as an alarm clock to “convince myself to stop liking that music … [But] the other day I was online just looking at where you buy grills. Because I don’t know!” D’Silva then segued to the next act with, “Meatball is a weird name for a food … A ball of meat? Who thought of that?” acting as a humorous introduction for the next comic, Rob Hefferon ’18.
Hefferon’s set came in the form of a structured narrative as he recounted the ride that he received from Albany International Airport to Williamstown after spring break from an overzealous Christian woman. When Hefferon mentioned Easter Sunday, she accusatorily corrected him by calling it “Resurrection Sunday” instead. He likened it to someone correcting a friendly ‘Happy Birthday!’ by saying, “’I prefer to call it Uteral Ejection Day,” a quote that is sure to stick with the audience for a while.
Next up was newcomer Jake Marrus ’18, who had a particularly clever moment when he managed to turn the extraordinary back into the mundane while lampooning the overrated experience of the sport of luge. “You just still don’t understand how unpleasant that was – I can’t make it sound cool because like, we went 80 miles an hour. But another time, I was on the highway and we went 80 miles an hour,” he said.
Marrus was followed by Olivia Lima ’17. She stood out with her cool voice, quirky demeanor and the musical pronunciation of the name “Guy Fieri” as she mocked the ambiguous way he reviews food – “’Wow! I’ve had schnitzel before, but never like this!’ So are you telling me it’s the best, or literally the worst thing you’ve ever had?” – keeping the audience captivated in amusement.
Lima was followed by her friend Kevin Kelly ’17, who had the audience giggling before he even started to speak. Kelly decided to recount a few memorable events from his youth in his extremely conservative hometown of Scranton, Penn. (“Yes, like The Office”).
Kelly had the crowd gasping for breath with his absurd tales of his misconceptions of sex after watching The Devil Wears Prada and his excessive knowledge of prescription drugs and methods of opium use as learned from his eighth-grade religion teacher.
Then came Fatima Anaza ’18, who delivered an all-too-relatable set about growing up and discovering her own relative mediocrity in the grand scope of incredibly talented young people, especially at the College. She was followed by Alvaro Aleman ’16, who drew laughs by recalling his search for a good haircut and the time he was kicked out of an art museum for picking up art that looked like trash.
Next was Gideon Hess ’16, whose calming, even-toned voice led the audience through a hilarious journey of his contemplations of mortality. Hess added an unexpected theatrical element into his set as he threw himself on the floor to imitate a baby crawling towards an old man, “grasping towards death” while remaining totally deadpan, a truly impressive feat.
Alice Murphy ’16 has also done plenty of stand-up before, and she delivered her jokes with cool professionalism. Her escapades on Tinder were a highlight, including her plan to post several pictures of herself covered in vomit with the caption, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best!”
Murphy was followed by Rohan Paranjpe ’16. While his jokes were professionally delivered and may very well have gotten laughs at a comedy club in New York, his set unfortunately dealt with themes that fell completely flat with the audience, who largely recognized his jokes as inappropriate. Paranjpe realized this and ducked out early, leaving some tension and discomfort in the crowd.
Luckily D’Silva, who had thus far proved himself a master of the segue, dissolved the tension into relieved laughter with a simple introduction for the next act, Randall Otis ’15.
Otis was a perfectly chosen closing act for the show. He grabbed the mic with confidence, reinvigorating the crowd with his boundless energy, which flowed through him like electricity through a closed circuit as he blazed through his set. He started off with a seemingly innocuous question – “What is pollen?” – which led to the horrific discovery that he was constantly being bombarded by tree gametes. He then turned to topics like the racial microaggressions he’s experienced and even sexting. He tackled these tricky topics with such good taste that roars of laughter were the only response from the crowd. Otis drew the audience members in with his comfortable and empathetic demeanor, and it felt like he was speaking to a large group of good friends as he went from joke to joke.
Despite a single hiccup towards the end, my experience at stand-up night was overwhelmingly positive. It is truly a joy that students here can be so intellectual and yet so funny and witty at the same time. I hope the next stand-up event draws an even more diverse crowd to join their peers in laughter.