My Performing Stand-Up Comedy Experience
By Mitch Cohen
Throughout my life, one of my favorite things to do has been making people laugh. For example, I enjoy performing impressions of characters like Stewie Griffin from “Family Guy.” When creating my schedule for the fall 2022 semester, I was interested in taking a class called Performing Stand-Up Comedy because I love the idea of performing for an audience. This class appealed to me because it allows students to create and perform stand-up routines. Towards the end of the semester, on Dec. 11, 2022, my classmates and I performed our stand-up routines at the Westside Comedy Club in Manhattan.
Professor Lauren Buscemi, who started teaching the class in 2018, took it when she attended Adelphi. “I always loved comedy, but I never thought about performing it,” said Buscemi. “Once presented with the opportunity, I realized it was really fun.”
A highlight of the course was watching videos of famous comedians’ sets. While not every comedian appealed to me, it was fascinating viewing each performance because of how different their styles of humor were. One comedian we studied was Tig Notaro. Despite not being a fan of Notaro’s style of humor, watching her gave me a better idea of how comedians perform because through the videos, I learned about the importance of comedic timing and stage presence. Another part of the class I enjoyed was creating my routine.
For the final show, each student created their own stand-up set and performed it. With my set, I wrote about being in a marching band. I reflected on both the positive and negative aspects of being in marching band, including dealing with constructive feedback. In addition to writing my set, I rehearsed it. Initially, I thought stand-up comedians improvised their routines. In actuality, stand-up requires lots of memorization, as each comedian only has five minutes to perform during the final performance. While this time limit heightened my anxiety, my previous performance experience helped alleviate my nerves.
Before my performance at Westside, I had years of performing experience under my belt, having played bass drum four in my high school marching band. At this time, my bandmates and I performed at football games and competitions in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Having been involved in performing arts in the past, I had more confidence on stage.
However, several other students didn’t share the same performing experience as me.
Max Mehr, a sophomore graphic design major, had little experience being on stage before performing at Westside Comedy Club. “I remember I was in a talent show when I was about 11 or 12, but that was really about it,” said Mehr.
Like me, Buscemi also had experience performing before the show at Westside. “I performed at Gotham Comedy Club, Broadway Comedy Club and some smaller clubs too,” she said.
Ultimately, stand-up comedy is an impressive skill because it allows people to create funny anecdotes based on their personal lives and popular culture.
On the day of the performance, I felt both incredibly nervous and excited. I was ecstatic to perform at a Manhattan comedy club, but on the other hand, I was nervous because I was afraid of forgetting my set. Making matters more nerve-wracking was that I was the second student lined up to perform.
Senior history major Athena Miller also felt mixed about performing her routine to the audience. “There’s a piece of yourself you put on the line when doing stand-up,” said Miller. “When it was over, I was incredibly proud, but leading up to it, I was extremely nervous.”
During my routine, I also felt like I was putting a piece of myself on the line due to my personal life being part of my set. Fortunately, once I got on stage, all my anxiety dissipated, as I felt comfortable performing for the audience. My favorite moment of the show was when I asked the audience how they thought my bandmates treated me. This was amazing because it allowed me to give the crowd insight into my personal life. Overall, while I was initially anxious, I had a great time once I got on stage.
Taking the Performing Stand-Up Comedy course was an amazing experience because not only did I learn about how stand-up works, I also created and performed a routine of my own. Performing at Westside was the highlight of my semester since it allowed me to use my comedic abilities in front of a live audience. For students who love being on stage or have an interest in performing arts, I highly recommend enrolling in this class.