On Thursday night, eight Yale faculty and staff members will take the stage for charity and do something none of them have much experience with: stand-up comedy.
For $8, Yalies will be able to see English professor Sarah Mahurin GRD ’11, philosophy professor Shelly Kagan, physics lecturer Adriane Steinacker, Assistant Director for the Asian American Cultural Center Sheraz Iqbal, Director of the AACC Joliana Yee, Chaplain’s Office Director of Muslim Life Omer Bajwa, Yale School of Art critic Justin Berry and psychology graduate student Vlad Chituc ’12 GRD ’23 try their hands at comedy.
Y2Y New Haven, a new overnight program for youth experiencing homelessness, has organized the comedy show as a fundraiser for the organization. The event will be hosted by two undergraduates involved in comedy groups on campus, Chloe Prendergast ’20 and Oscar Lopez Aguirre ’20. Each performer will do a five-minute set for the audience gathered in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall 114.
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“It’s nice to get to use this skill for a project that I care about but also that I see so many other people care about,” said Prendergast, who is a member of two comedy groups, The Coven and The Cucumber. “It feels like I can justify the ego trip that is doing my own performances.”
The first location of the Y2Y network is in Harvard Square in Cambridge where Harvard students and professional staff work together to run the day-to-day operations of the organization. That location opened in December of 2015.
While the site in Harvard Square is fully operational and going on its fourth year in business, the proposed New Haven location is still looking for its permanent space. Currently, Y2Y and its partner organization in the Elm City — the Youth Continuum — are working with other stakeholders to establish the site and to provide resources for homeless youth.
The Y2Y New Haven finance and fundraising team, led by Sarah Jho ’20 and Lucie Warga ’22, communicates with its counterpart at Harvard Square to share ideas for raising money. Last spring, Y2Y student volunteers at Harvard hosted their first annual faculty and staff comedy show as a fundraiser for the group.
Jho, Warga and the rest of the team reached out to professors and staff that are “well-liked” on campus and have a reputation for being funny, according to Jho. The team also wanted its lineup to include faculty and staff from a diverse range of Yale departments and schools, as well as people who are invested in New Haven.
Ultimately, the group emailed 26 faculty and staff, with 8 of those agreeing to participate in the show. This response rate was far higher than Harvard Square’s last year, when organizers had to send around 100 emails in order to solidify a lineup, Jho said.
Y2Y volunteers also enlisted 14 students from Yale’s undergraduate comedy scene to help the performers write and edit their five-minute sets. The faculty members and students first met to talk about the faculty members’ background and work. From there, the students helped write jokes and test out material. According to Prendergast, a lot of the students’ job was to help the new comedians arrange their stories because all of them already had funny things to say.
“Comedy is a whole different ballgame … but the students have been amazing,” Bajwa said. “The student I have been working with really has been coaching me through it and really it’s a collaborative process.”
Still, not all the performers ended up working with the students that were assigned to them.
Kagan “decided to release” the students who had been selected to work with him after “they sent [Kagan] a first draft” with jokes that “were not in [his] voice,” adding that he made that decision “foolishly because these are trained undergraduate professionals.”
While Jho said Y2Y New Haven is unlikely to raise the $2,600 that the Harvard Square team raised during their show last year, she is optimistic about the turnout. According to Jho, the proceeds from the event will go towards youth engagement efforts ahead of the opening of the program in two to three years. At the moment, the organization is still in the site selection process.
The Thursday event will run between 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Jose Davila IV | firstname.lastname@example.org