Students’ stand-up routines develop under expert tutelage

Michael Todd
Staff Writer

Friday and Saturday brought a gut-busting new dimension to the Main Stage at the Singleton Center as 15 VCU theater majors, ranging from freshman to graduate level students, tried their hand at humor in the Stand Up Comedy Show.

For the occasion, VCUtheatre brought in nationally renowned and acclaimed Stephen Rosenfield, director of the American Comedy Institute of New York City, to coach the young comedians. With Rosenfield’s past students having appeared on “The David Letterman Show,” “The Conan O’Brien Show,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Last Comic Standing,” among many other impressive credentials, the success of the night was hardly a surprise.

Each performer produced with his or her own original material for the comedy show. During their workshops, Rosenfield helped the students polish their acts, assisting with such aspects as fleshing out jokes and effective delivery.

“What Stephen was really good at was teaching us to structure a joke,” Elliot Duffy said of working with Rosenfield. “Some things wouldn’t need any help at all; sometimes it was as simple as moving a word around.”
Duffy’s opening line, “So Adele has six Grammys,” was enough to send many audience members into a laughing fit. As if that weren’t enough, Duffy offered a punch line. “I only have two.”

Each of the 15 performers only had a few minutes on stage, but each made his or her own distinct impression on the audience. While of course not all material can be recounted as accurately as if seen in person, some of the highlights of the comedy show are as follows.

“Fun-sized” Rachel Blackburn opened the night with her mildly cliché but overall effective short jokes, taking full advantage of and adding a new spin on the cultural hip-hop vernacular term “shawty.” A testament to the success of her set, audience reactions were frequently funnier than Blackburn’s jokes themselves.

“When I lived in London, I was approached by a casting director who wanted me to audition for a part as an elf,” Blackburn said. “That’s it, that’s the whole story.”

According to Aaron Mauck, the RA system at VCU doesn’t consist of much more than drunk people taking care of other, younger drunk people. And based on reactions from the audience, his claim was more than just a joke in a stand up show.

Whitney Houston, of course, made it into the comedy show last as her death was mourned by Morgan Barbour along side that of “fellow black female performer Michael Jackson.”

Barbour also warned audience members to steer clear of guys in white vans. “They’re compulsive liars. They never have the free candy they promise!”

Perhaps the most original performance of the night, the beginning of freshman Mahlon Raoufi’s set centered around jokes about his unusual first name, pronounced “May-lin,” which he told audience members is the Biblical word for “sickness.” Raoufi then proceeded to tell audience members about his quest for a girl who would stay by his side “in Mahlon and in health,” and who would suffer “morning Mahlon” for the sake of their child, Mahlon Jr.—the third person on the planet to share the name.

Caty Nickelson followed Raoufi with one of the most successful sets of the night in which she hilariously impersonated a handful of the many personas to be found at the average VCU frat party.

Andrew Flack was one of the few performers who took the stage in costume, with his Superman shirt complimenting all too well his virgin jokes –namely, why everyone thought he was one.

“My parents have been together for 14 years,” Danielle Williams said near the beginning of her set. “I’m 18. You do the math.”

In addition to other eye-wateringly effective material, Williams evaluated on the dilemma of how the fine line between “f— me” and “I’m desperate” is determined solely upon the number of “ys” attached to the word “hey” in a text message.

Besides addressing the dangers of “you can look, but you can’t touch” while in a committed relationship, Matt Johnson described Virginia as a “skeezy Spaniard” who wants to “get up in ya,” successfully making light of the recent close call with a bill that would have required women to undergo an invasive ultrasound before an abortion.

Caitlin Carbone brought the night to a close by expressing her desire to be the target of aggressively given compliments, rather than the usual cat calls. “Ay yo, bitch! Yea, I’m talkin’ to you! You smell nice! Is that Chanel
No. 9? I love Chanel No. 9!”

Thanks to Stephen Rosenfield and VCU theater students, Stand Up Comedy audience members will greet the coming week with sore abdomens.

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