People discuss philosophy and cancer treatment, pressing class issues and future trends in global politics, essentially any and every matter of import in this big bad world on Yale’s campus. But the YCC’s Last Comic Standing competition revealed that when it comes to comedy, Yalies want to go back to simple brass tacks. And what that basically means is ‘LOL sex and masturbation!!!’.
The event featured 12 contestants, each vying for one of two spots as an opener for comedic “enfant terrible” Bo Burnham at next week’s Fall Show. Burnham’s kind of a big deal for comedians and other people who watch YouTube far too much, and the YCC’s Wednesday announcement that he’ll be headlining the Fall Show upped the stakes for the 12 would-be openers.
So they brought their best (to the test/to beat the rest/WEEKEND can be funny too, guys-est). For a select few, that ‘best’ was truly outstanding. Yael Zinkow ’12 unpacked just how oddly violent Bruno Mars’ ‘Grenade’ is, analysed our weird tendency to underplay our anger when dealing with randos (“No, I am not just fine when you f*ing spill orange juice all over me) and exhibited a comfort level with the stage none of the other performers really matched. Her eventual win was well-deserved. But other strong contenders meant that her victory was not, in any sense, assured. Paul Robalino ’12 managed to keep the audience engaged for the entire four minutes of his set, which doesn’t sound quite that difficult until you consider actually trying to do it (i.e. competing with smartphones). A strong start with a God vs. Steve Jobs joke followed by a barrage of equally original content pushed Ari Berkowitz ’12 to the big leagues as well. Ryan Bowers ’14 electrified the audience with well thought-out jokes particularly well-suited to the Yale demographic, touching on everything from pre-gaming Monday lunch to bizarre coed bathroom hookups. These four really made their mark, and the judges rightly rewarded them for it: Zinkow, Robalino, Berkowitz and Bowers all made it to the top five, along with Natey Weinstein ’14, who stood out with his sharp, seemingly intentionally disjointed insights.
Other comedians were characterized, if not by general success, then by fleeting moments of excellence. John Gonzalez ’14 made apt observations about Yale while inspiring sympathy for those poor souls crushed underfoot at the foam party. Pushing us to reexamine animals and their bizarre traits (“seriously, narwhals, was God just f*ing around when he created you?”) stood Jacob Evelyn ’13 in good stead.
Yet some just seemed to face the perennial problem of stand-up comedians everywhere: they became awkward and/or ran out of stuff to say. McKaye Neumeister ’12 got off to a solid start with ‘fro-co bro-co’ jokes and somehow ended up presenting rather poor suggestions for baseball ads. Weinstein, who presented content of varied quality, made maybe 19 seconds of eye contact with the audience. Even Berkowitz stumbled here; Indiana got linked to Jewish fathers via some evidently desperate leap of logic. And, inevitably, there was a bevy of jokes that just fell flat: sorry, comment about the necessity of being a motherf*-er, sorry, set that leaned way too heavily on already-irrelevant Rebecca Black, we’re, in Evelyn’s words, “just not really accepting applications right now.”
Worse than the awkward, though, was the bizarre. Some comedians had this reviewer (and many in the audience) questioning not just the quality of their humor, but what their material represent about Yale culture. Title IX loomed large for obvious reasons. It seems to have inspired, perhaps due to the associated drama, a determination to be forthright about sex and discrimination in a decidedly petulant way. One contestant recalled telling someone he’d slept with that he would suffocate their snores with a part of his body no one really wants referenced (like, ever). Meanwhile, another comedian we can safely assume has nothing to do with the Women’s Center suggested shoving a prostitute into a brown paper bag, whiskey-style, to hide her from the cops. That’s right. A paper bag.
‘Last Comic Standing’ was a competition in the most honest sense of the word. It showcased not the best of comedy at Yale, but the range. What we can now expect from the Fall Show is questionable; Zinkow’s victory is promising but the audience’s selection of Weinstein may leave something to be desired. All this reviewer wants, come Oct. 22nd, is for dear old Yael Zinkow to control her urge to burst into song — Fall Show 2010 attendees are still trying to make sense of her rendition of Beauty and the Beast’s “Tale as old as Time,” perhaps the least funny song in the Disney canon.