By Max LoSardo
I love comedy, baby! So, naturally February 9th and 10th were marked off on my upsettingly empty calendar for Skidmore College’s 29th annual NATIONAL COLLEGE COMEDY FESTIVAL—affectionately known by all as Comfest.
Founded in 1989 by Skidmore College alum and resident famous person, David Miner ‘91 (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, etc.), ComFest has gone on to be one of the largest college comedy festivals in the country. Led by producers Andi Kabiri ‘18 and Doug Patrick ‘18, Comfest 2018 continued to impress.
Split up into two nights, twelve different collegiate acts and four professional comedians performed to a sold out JKB Theater. Night One consisted of Cornell University’s The Whistling Shrimp (Improv), Tufts University’s The Institute (Sketch), Boston University’s Slow Children at Play (Sketch), Muhlenberg College’s Underground Improv Project (Sketch), and Skidmore’s own Awkward Kids Talking (Improv) and The Sketchies (Sketch, clearly).
Friday’s professional show featured stand up comedians Yedoye Travis and Rhea Butcher. While the collegiate groups generally veered away from politics, Travis and Butcher effectively examined race and gender in two equally distinctive and hilarious sets.
Travis demonstrated a self-aware wit and critical consciousness, joking about how often he is mistakenly congratulated for fellow comedian Donald Glover’s successes, and how is own last name “sounds like the first name of someone who can’t pronounce his first name.” While Travis’ humor intelligently prodded at political systems and pop culture—a joke about Domino’s drone-delivered pizza was one of the night’s highlights—he kept a lively physical presence, deftly moving around the stage to tell a story about waiting in line, all the while remaining sharp and compelling.
Headlining Friday night, Butcher alternated between stories of sitting in the front seat of ridesharing services (with a much appreciated Vincent D’Onofrio Law and Order Reference) to the idiosyncracies of their daily life, like the spot in their house reserved for packages. Like Travis, Butcher intertwined their personal experience with larger political criticism, self-knowingly making fun of their whiteness and the lessons they have learned from years of performing stand up. Throughout their set, Butcher maintained a warm and lighthearted presence that made the 300-seat theater feel decidedly more intimate. The audience was receptive to both Travis and Butcher’s acts, leaving night one eager for more.
Night Two’s collegiate show featured New York University’s Hammerkatz (Sketch) and Dangerbox (Improv), Loyola University Chicago’s 45 Kings (Improv), Cornell University’s The Skits (Sketch—I hope you’re catching on), and Skidmore’s Skidomedy (Sketch) and Ad-Libs (improv).
Saturday’s professional shows mostly moved away from stand-up and towards improv-based sketch performance with Mark Vigeant’s one-man show, Let’s Make A Website and John Reynolds’ and Matt Barats’ satirical play, Sadie Hawkins Day. In Let’s Make a Website, Vigeant, starring as a Mountain Dew-guzzling and Christopher Walken-loving computer programmer, took suggestions from the audience in order to create a website from scratch. The audience and Vigeant landed on a perfectly niche subject for the site: Cardi B’s fictional mission to save baby goats (http://cardibsavesbabygoats.life/). Vingeant’s total commitment to the character made his act one to remember, as did his engaging rapport with the audience; he made several friends throughout the evening, including Graham Cook ’18, who, after much pestering, managed to get his mom an “appearance” on the website.
Concluding Comfest was Matt Barats (High Maintenance) and John Reynolds’ (Stranger Things) Sadie Hawkins Day. After a short stand up set by Wes Haney, which would be cleverly referenced again at the end of the show, the unique group of five began a “one act play” that is as difficult to describe as it is mind-blowingly funny. Merely saying that Barats plays a 15 year-old being courted by his Earth Science teacher, played by Reynolds, does not do Sadie Hawkins Day justice, as the show’s true genius is in its unexpected moments of absurdity, like offhanded mentions to Barats’ character turning into a lizard boy, or a squealing character in overalls who appears in the final act. Could there be a more perfect way to concluded Comfest then by Reynolds walking into a river after a never-ending, innovatively chaotic scene of shotgunning canned beer?
This photo gallery contains photographs from the two student collegiate-level shows and were all taken by Dante Haughton ’19.
Max LoSardo ’20 is a sophomore English major and two year staff writer for the Living Newsletter.