“It’s like riding an opium-coaster,” said Eric DePalo ’11, referring to the Cucumber — The Yale Record’s new series of open mic stand-up comedy nights.
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The third of the Record’s biweekly open mic nights at Yale took place Monday night in the Calhoun Cabaret, with an audience of more than 50 people, testifying to the growth of the stand-up community at Yale. The Cucumber’s concept is simple: Anyone interested in performing signs up online for a five-minute set in each show, and the laughs commence.
The Cucumber started when a group of students on the Winter Show Committee, led by The Record Chairman Simon Swartzman ’10, noted the absence of stand-up at Yale and decided to change it.
“Stand-up is an animal all its own, different than improv and sketch comedy,” said DePalo in an e-mail. “And the Cucumber is its only habitat at Yale.”
For many student comedians interviewed, the idea of doing stand-up can be daunting.
“Stand-up audiences are like an ex that you’re trying to win back — a tougher crowd that’s more judgmental and less forgiving,” said Ethan Kuperberg ’11, who performed at the Cucumber Monday night. Kuperberg also performed at the Winter Show two weeks ago and produced the Yale admissions video.
But the open mics are truly, well, open. Barring a time constraint, anyone can perform, and there is no screening process. Though some who have performed are members of other comedy groups on campus, most are not. Stan Seiden ’10, another of the event’s organizers, said the Cucumber is opening humor to a different part of Yale’s community beyond the improv and sketch comedy groups.
Still, Jesse Williams ’12, a member of the sketch comedy group Red Hot Poker, said performing is not easy.
“I admire the people who get up there so much,” Williams said. “It takes so much balls.”
Jerry Wang ’13, a performer at Cucumber shows past, added, “In the spirit of gender neutrality and Sex Week, I’d say it can also take so many ovaries.”
But the past three open mics have featured only one female performer: Yael Zinkow ’12.
“I’m sick of hearing ‘Girls aren’t funny,’ ” Zinkow said. “I’m trying to break that stereotype.”
Aspiring comics need not be afraid, according to several participants who said the audiences in the Cabaret have been very receptive and supporting, even laughing at jokes that were not funny.
In fact, Swartzman said the first few shows have gone surprisingly well.
“The first one blew me away how well it went,” he said. “I expected five people to sign up, and one other person to be in the audience, but people were just streaming in.” Future shows — on March 1, March 29, April 12 and April 27 — promise to fill the Cabaret to capacity, the organizers said.
At the Feb. 1 show, Jacob Paul ’13 used a Jesus night-light in lieu of a microphone, and when reflecting on the light, he may as well have been talking about the Cucumber as a whole.
“I think it’s going to become, like, a huge thing,” he said
The Cucumber takes place every other Monday at 11 p.m. Performers can sign up at yalerecord.com/standup.