Artist Otherwise Known As: Reed Putnam ’23

Kathryn Cloonan and Megan Lin

Putnam shares a moment outside Poker Flats with his Roomba Sally. (Photo courtesy of Reed Putnam.)

Reed Putnam ’23 is an art history and practice major from Chappaqua, N.Y. He is a member of Treestyle Improv Comedy and the cross country and track and field teams. He discussed his passion for architecture, his experience in college comedy groups, and his DJ career. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Reed Putnam (RP): This is a really good chair. [Spins in chair.] Full attention loss.

Megan Lin (ML): So, your specialization as an art major is architecture. What do you love about architecture?

RP: I’ve always really liked architecture. It defines how we think about things and feel a lot of the time. It very much has a visceral impact on day-to-day life and culture. What’s interested me most over the past four years has been how architecture builds heritage or culture, and also what we choose to destroy in architecture and what we choose to conserve or restore. 

ML: What do you mean by “how architecture builds heritage?”

RP: Basically, there’s this conception [in] architecture [that] the monuments we inherit are not owned by us — there’s a sense of ownership to another time. There’s this need to protect them or to question them, and to claim space and to claim architecture as our own and part of our culture or not. So the idea of heritage is kind of like, “How are we building this narrative of history and culture through physical space?”

ML: What are the worst and best architectural designs on this campus?

RP: The worst is Wachenheim! That’s the WOAT [Worst of All Time]! Wachenheim is WOATed. You can find my thoughts on Wachenheim in my previous op-ed for the Record. You can go to or whatever. [Editor’s note: The website for The Williams Record is] The best on this campus… drumroll… it’s Bernhard. It’s not meant to be the most amazing building, but it engages with its surroundings so gracefully and cuts out a really nice quad behind it. An underrated space on campus is that quad. 

For me, materials are so important in architecture. There are certain people who interact with architecture as tactile and touch walls, and I’m definitely that. The tactile experience of Bernhard is superb. Not exactly on the ground floor because of the crusty practice rooms. But the upper floor is this really nice space with these plants, this courtyard — it just feels very zen, spacious, and quiet. It has a vibe of aesthetic pleasure that you don’t really get in a lot of college architecture.

Kathryn Cloonan (KC): Let’s move on from architecture — I want to talk about comedy. What made you want to get involved in the College’s comedy scene?

RP: I didn’t really do comedy before college because I didn’t think I was actually funny. I was just really awkward. Junior year of high school [I did] try out for the Puritans, which was our high school’s improv group, and I don’t care if you guys slander the Puritans because they didn’t take me. [Laughs.] 

Then I saw Treestyle at Previews, and I thought they were really good. I was like, “Okay, if I’m going to try out for an improv group. I’ll try out for Treestyle.” The auditions were from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., and the way it worked in high school was that you could just come anytime during that period of time. So I showed up at 4:30 p.m., midway through auditions, and I was wearing an orange shirt. It was bright orange — like fluorescent orange. They knew me as the “orange shirt kid” because they were like, “Who’s this weirdo?” I do have a tip: If you want to get into an improv group, you should wear a ridiculous outfit. It will make you stand out, because we remember people by what they wear.

ML: Can you tell us about how you guys welcome new Treestyle members?

RP: My sophomore year we had practice outside, masked. We had to stand on cones 10 feet apart. It was pretty miserable doing it outside in the cold. I was thinking about taking a semester off or quitting my junior year, but Alex [Giles ’22] and I were the only people in the group who had done a show. We were just thrust into a leadership role that we were not prepared for at all. 

Traditionally, [to welcome new members] the upperclassmen drive to North Adams and get a succulent or some little plant. But we just completely forgot to do that last year. So we just got red Solo cups from my room and we filled them up with dirt and a little stick — a little plant. We were just like, “Here take care of this ‘plant.’” 

KC: How have you felt being a leader of Treestyle this year? Do you feel like you’ve grown into the role?

RP: Yeah! Basically, my goal for the past two years has been building people up and getting people to feel confident. I’m constantly trying to make people feel pride in how they do improv because it makes performance so much easier. I have spent a lot of time reading about and figuring out improv and trying to be a better coach. I feel like that’s more of what my role is: a coach. 

ML: So you also DJ, and your DJ name is DJ Epic Reed 7. What makes you epic and what makes you seven?

RP: We were playing some iMessage game — me and some cross country freshmen on the way to a meet — and I chose my name as Epic Reed 7. It was just off the dome. And something about it was just so cursed. The “7” is just like, who knows? But the “epic” is like — I am devoted to finding epicness. [Laughs.] Epic is this amazing word that comes from 2012 and is used to describe the most outdated and cringe things. I’m always striving for epic. [DJ Epic Reed 7] is me in my ultimate form of epicness, and epicness means DJing.

KC: Brief question referencing the track and cross country teams, because we have to mention that you run: If you could run all the way to any place in the whole world, where would it be?

RP: Maybe I’d run to Patagonia. It seems cool. Or Death Valley in California. Good place. It would be hot but you can see for so long on those roads. Those are epic. [Laughs.]