The black stage of the little building’s Cabaret was naked under the blue lights, save for a skinny microphone pole and the young comedian standing behind it. A collection of faces in plastic chairs stared back at the microphone and its attached partner, senior visual media arts major Casey Regan. Without warning, Regan fell to the stage on his hands and knees and began to retch while clutching his stomach.
At the monologue showcase Sunday, eight Emerson comedians gathered to tell their stories. And sometimes, storytelling means pretending to vomit a liter of Diet Sprite onstage.
The monologue series was founded three years ago by members of Swomo (Swolen Monkey Showcase) and This Is Pathetic, two campus improv troupes. All Emerson students are welcome to bring their stories, and among the performers were members of three different comedy troupes. Each year has a theme, and the topic chosen to unify the monologues Sunday night was travel.
“We wanted to keep [the topic] as something people have stories from, and usually vacations kind of suck or are great,” said Kristen Parker, Swomo president and a junior performing arts major.
Parker served as emcee for the night alongside Regan, a close friend of Parker.
Regan spoke about the challenges facing a comedian delivering a monologue.
“It’s different for everybody. You’ve got to be able to engage someone all by yourself,” Regan said. “For me, it becomes about playing off the audience rather than anybody else on stage with you, so you’ve got to respond to your environment.”
The first comedian to rise to the challenge was Lee Benzaquin, a junior writing, literature, and publishing major and president of Chocolate Cake City. Benzaquin told a story about his quest to find the last magic trick shop in the Bay State, while performing the classic “pick a card” magic routine.
A member of Jimmy’s Traveling All Star’s, freshman visual and media arts major Jordan Perry, recounted a high school quest to visit a strip club in Atlanta. “We’re driving at 2 a.m., in Atlanta. It’s the scariest place on the planet. It’s like walking to Mordor,” Perry said.
Senior visual and media arts major Griff O’Brien, also of Jimmy’s Traveling All Stars, began his soliloquy with a disclaimer. “To understand this story, you first have to know: I’m stupid, and Mike is a dick.”
What followed a story about a hospital visit following a game of “This bag is heavy,” which involved the 7-year-old O’Brien being stuffed into a duffel bag and thrown overhead by his 17-year-old brother, Mike.
Ben Kling, a junior visual and media arts major and a former Beacon columnist, recalled a road trip across America with his mother that sparked an obsession with the mythical jackalopes of South Dakota in the 11-year-old Kling.
Other comedians delivered monologues within the form of poetry, like Jimmy’s Traveling All Stars member Gabriel Rodriguez, a senior performing arts major, and Swomo performer Talia Heller, a freshman performing arts major.
The nature of the monologue highlighted the individual storytelling styles of each comedian.
“It becomes about weaving a narrative or some sort of arc by yourself and only with yourself. You, yourself, and I. Your words. Spotlight on you,” said Regan.
Parker gave a history of her intoxicated travelogues, using hand-drawn sketches as an aid for the audience. There were two drawings for each event — one for the way that she remembered them in a drunk past and another illustrating how she must have looked in sober reality.
“I’m pretty sure I looked like this,” Parker said, holding a sketch of a delighted cartoon self smiling on a Boston sidewalk. “But with my sober mind recall, I think it was more like this,” she said, switching to a picture of her illustrated alter-ego vomiting on the street.
The techniques that the comedians employed — magic tricks, stand-up comedy, poetry, and illustration — showed off the variety available in the comedic monologue.
“We like that it lends for so much different comedy,” said Parker. “But it’s also hard because you’re putting the pressure on each individual person to come up with a five minute story that will engage an audience.”
Correction: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story stated that Swomo hosted the event. Swomo's president served as emcee, but this was not a Swomo event. A previous version of this article also claimed that Casey Regan is a member of Swomo, but he is not.