Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Comedy Jam’s bucket of laughs not full enough

By Jeremy Paskoff

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Araz Havan/Collegian

While the University of Massachusetts Comedy Jam elicited some laughs over the weekend, the performances were hit and miss, and left some audience members hoping for more.

Newbies and seasoned comedians alike took the stage at Bartlett hall on Friday, April 12 and Saturday, April 13, attempting to but their best foot forward.

Dressed to impress, Sketch 22’s Ryan Merchant took the stage wearing a tight-fitting azure blue tank top, “diabetic socks” and an umbrella hat to begin the night. An outfit that quickly has the crowd guffawing. Marchant hosted the show with Improv With Attitude’s Erin Wholley.

Marchant’s group kicked off the show with a hilarious sketch that took place on a bus. The bit featured Student Valley Productions member Abby Kopel playing a childish and bothersome passenger. As the sketches continued, Marchant provided laughs with each role he played, from his profane, trash-talking third grade video gamer to a gay man attending birthing classes, hoping to share in the joy of childbirth. A stand out performer, Marchant proved himself to be a superior performer.

Following Sketch 22 was short-form improv comedy duo Los Dos Dudes. The team mimed props very well, and their animated personalities kept the audience thoroughly amused. While it was not as strong as Sketch 22, Los Dos Dudes still received audience approval and proved practiced in improvised comedy. As their portion ended, some audience members began to leave, content with the performance of the first two groups.

Up next was Improv Boston’s Big Bang, whose focus was a “twist” on long-form improv. Similar to the Upright Citizens Brigade, Improv Boston used intertwining, recurring themes, which ranged from grizzled Vietnam vets and extreme forms of childbirth to artists and financing. After a rough start, the group quickly regained its stride and ended its set on a solid note.

Last up on Friday’s list was former Mission:IMPROVable member Shockwave, a freestyle improv performer who performed a comedy bit in the form of sound effects and beat-boxing. Certainly the most unique, Shockwave quickly drew the crowd’s attention .

In the middle of his act, he left the stage to present a PowerPoint presentation on the history of “Freestyling Harold-ing,” an imaginary combination of hip-hop and improv. The presentation featured Photoshopped heads of famed comedians placed next to renowned hip-hop artists, which caused a sea of laughter. Unfortunately, at the end of the presentation, Shockwave brought out a guest performer who attempted to perform this style of improv with him. It was a valiant effort, but the guest’s abysmal inability to rap and perform comedy simultaneously dragged Shockwave down, making his set the weakest and least appreciated act of the night.

Danielle Soto, an alum of UMass and SVP, started out the second night with her stand-up act.. Her self-deprecating style had great potential but was underutilized, causing her to struggle for more than a few scattered laughs. Soto left the stage almost as soon as she got on, clocking in at just a little more than 10 minutes.

The second group of the night was newcomer Wingz over Amherst. The duo, which works for the local chicken wing establishment, performed “20 sketches in 20 minutes” involving short-form improv. The audience responded with mixed reviews, but recurrent and shameless plugs for the store proved reliable for a laugh.

Improv with Attitude (IWA) was Saturday’s most confusing act. It began by introducing a guest “singer from Los Angeles” dressed in provocative attire, invited to perform songs that would set up the ideas for sketches. Whether this was a character or just a bizarre addition was unclear until her last song, a jovial Christmas tune about the demonic European beast Krampus. Nevertheless, the singer’s presence seemed out of place and impaired the group’s dynamic.

Family-friendly Mission:IMPROVable was the best act of the night, maintaining its reliable format of games and dance intermissions. The group garnered a multitude of laughs throughout its performance and appeared to be the crowd favorite. It played “Challenge,” a game involving on-the-spot comical debate, as its final game, and invited alumni that were in the crowd or had performed the night before to play.

The final act of Comedy Jam was NYC’s North Coast, a free-style rapping improv group featuring Friday’s final act, Shockwave, and his guest from the previous night. The troupe hosted a rap battle between audience members and ended up pitting members of all of Comedy Jam’s contending groups against each other. While the battle seemed to drag on endlessly, Mission:IMPROVable members Brianna Heffernan and Courtney Dunham performed superbly.

Despite the best efforts of its performers, this year’s Comedy Jam proved to be underwhelming. Although entertained at times, the audience left Bartlett Hall wishing for more.

Jeremy Paskoff can be reached at [email protected]

4 Comments

4 Responses to “Comedy Jam’s bucket of laughs not full enough”

  1. Disagree Ment on April 17th, 2013 7:41 pm

    This article has many errors. For starters there are many typos and errors in spelling and grammar. Secondly, these are all one person’s opinion. I would like to see the author get other people’s opinions about the show before generalizing that the Comedy Jam was “underwhelming.” Lastly the author neglected to mention the workshops that were held for the community on Saturday during the day, or talk about the enormous efforts it took to get acts from all over to perform on a small budget. This article does not seem credible since it only features one person’s opinion and does not have any commentary from audience members, troupe members, or executive members.

  2. Gab on April 17th, 2013 10:27 pm

    Wingz over Amherst does not work for Wings… it’s a joke. They’re SVP alumni, get your facts straight. Maybe if you had interviewed the students involved or audience members, your story wouldn’t have been so full of holes and just loaded with your own opinion.

  3. Jeremy Paskoff on April 18th, 2013 12:33 am

    I need to learn my facts before writing another lack-luster review in which I obviously did not talk to anyone involved in the production of the show or any of the performers. I’ll try harder next time, guys. I promise XOXO.

    Love J, Pissoff.

  4. Derrick on April 18th, 2013 10:23 pm

    Dude it’s a FREE comedy show. You don’t lose anything by going, and you don’t HAVE to go. My god man.

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