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The Comedy Competitors: Tournament challenges schools' laughsmiths

by Eric Twardzik / Beacon Staff • March 29, 2012

Webcomedyshow
Left to right: Smooth talker Tesha Kondrat, sweater-wearer Andrew Coalson, punchline-piler Mikhail Han, and storyteller Griff O’Brien.
Left to right: Smooth talker Tesha Kondrat, sweater-wearer Andrew Coalson, punchline-piler Mikhail Han, and storyteller Griff O’Brien.

One person and a microphone vs. an audience — stand up comedy is among the most solitary of the performing arts. But last week, eight Emerson comedians formed a stand-up squadron to represent the college at the 5th annual Rooftop Comedy National College Comedy Competition. 

They competed Tuesday at Improv Boston against a team of comics from Tufts University for the competition’s Live Showcase. Four comics from each team would advance in the competition, representing their respective colleges in subsequent rounds.

The Rooftop Comedy National College Comedy Competition looks at 32 participating schools in a nationwide competition to find “the funniest college student in America.” The Live Showcase event, where two teams face off at a local comedy club, is the competition’s opening salvo.

Representing Emerson were Griff O’Brien, Andrew Coalson, Tesha Kondrat, Jake Ferretti, Zach Ehrlich, Grey Traynor, Mikhail Han, and Jamie Loftus.  

The eight Emerson comics were chosen by a qualifying round Feb. 8 in the Little Building’s Cabaret, where comedy hopefuls performed and were chosen by popular audience vote.

The performers from both teams had three minutes each to impress a judging panel of three local comedians.

After the microphone went silent and the smoked cleared, the judges announced the winners from Emerson: O’Brien, Coalson, Han, and Kondrat were chosen to advance in the competition, as were four contestants from Tufts.

O’Brien used his three minutes to deliver rapid fire non sequiturs to the audience on the topic of his unusual family.

“There’s a game my whole family plays called ‘Are You Still Allergic To?’” said the senior visual and media arts major. “We knew you’re allergic to shellfish, but eat one. So few winners.” 

O’Brien’s anecdotes didn’t leave him out of the crosshairs. “I’m very self deprecating, and do it through storytelling,” O’Brien said in an interview.

Han, who describes his stand up style as “Mitch Hedberg meets a ninja,” took the stage to cheers and shouts from his fans. The first topic he addressed was his Russian sounding first name, Mikhail.

“I was conceived during the Cold War, and my parents were pessimists,” said the junior visual and media arts major.

Han tacked jokes on top of one another, hitting a punchline just to add to it. Han said his favorite reality TV shows were 16 and Pregnant, “or as I like to call it, MILFs with braces,” and “Paralyzed and Pregnant, or as I like to call it, MILFs with braces.” 

Andrew Coalson, sporting a Christmas sweater and a thick beard, brought his more bizarre take on comedy to the microphone. The junior visual and media arts major tossed puzzling punchlines to the audience, from pickle-centric pick up lines to the idea for a Speed sequel starring Rosa Parks. He followed each by staring into the audience with a blank, almost confused look, as if Coalson was just as bewildered by the jokes as his audience.

“I like to play with irrationality, and go from there. Start with an irrational thought and see how much I can say about it,” Coalson said of his surreal style in an interview. 

Kondrat delivered her lines in a slow, almost soothing voice, a sharp contrast to the quick quips of the other comedians. Her jokes hopped from subject to subject as she paced the stage, patiently picking her brain for funnies.

“Do you guys wonder if cowboys and cowgirls have city parties where they just dress up like normal people?” said Kondrat. 

She said in an interview that she’s not concerned with defining her style.

“I’m going to talk about whatever I find interesting,” said the junior visual and media arts major. “You can label it as anything you want.” 

Tuesday marked Kondrat’s third consecutive year competing at the Live Showcase. Her previous two years saw her eliminated at the Live Showcase’s conclusion.

“It’s nice to be recognized after three years in the competition,” said Kondrat.

The Regionals Round will be determined by online voters, who will vote on clips selected from the Live Showcase performances of the respective teams. The voting period for the Regionals Round will take place between March 28 to April 13, and votes can be cast at TBS.com/college.