Last Thursday night, laughter and applause spilled from Piano Row’s Multipurpose Room as comedy lovers settled in for a night of hilarity at Rick Astley Deep Cuts, a stand-up event held by Inside Joke, Emerson’s only stand-up organization.
Around 20 student comedians took to the stage to perform their sets under bright lights for a lively Emerson audience. Mics dropped on topics ranging from The Gap to allergic reactions to Eggs Benedict, and styles varied, with some recounting vivid stories and others opting for deadpan one-liners.
Inside Joke president Wes Hauptman, a senior visual and media arts major with a minor in comedy, said he prefers the latter.
“I do a lot of one-liners and I’m very awkward on stage,” Hauptman said. “But no matter what style it’s in, a joke is a joke and what’s funny is funny.”
While Hauptman said he has been with Inside Joke since his sophomore year, roughly a third of the comics at the event performed with the organization for the first time.
Danielle Leigh Zappi, a senior performing arts major with a comedy minor, said she did stand-up for the first time at the event. She said she was nervous before going on stage, but pleasantly surprised by the supportive cheers of a room full of strangers.
“It’s really nerve-wracking when you first do it because you’re afraid no one’s going to laugh,” Zappi said. “Then when you get that tiny giggle, it’s like the best thing.”
Many of the more experienced comedians hail from other comedy organizations on campus. Pablo Escobosa, a junior visual and media arts major, is a founding member of Emerson sketch troupe Derbyn and the Drakefish. Escobosa said that Inside Joke’s passion for comedy is why he and many others frequent their events.
“It’s for the love of the craft,” Escobosa said. “It’s for the love of saying these ridiculous thoughts that you’ve had on stage and hearing people laugh at you. That’s beautiful.”
David Carliner, a junior visual and media arts major, is not only a member of Derbyn and the Drakefish but also a writer for Closing Time on the Emerson Channel and satirical news source Hyena. Carliner said that the community of Inside Joke is highly collaborative.
“There’s a community [at Inside Joke] of people who will help me hone my comedy. Or at least tolerate me talking,” he said.
Unlike other comedy groups at Emerson, Inside Joke holds no auditions and welcomes all, as Hauptman said he believes everyone should have the opportunity to perform. This inclusivity is apparent in their Facebook group, Inside Joke Comics: The Emerson Comedy Collective, which currently has 267 members and counting.
“If you want to try your hand at stand up or comedy, our doors are open,” Hauptman said. “If you want to try it, we will never stop you. We will only help you.”
Joe Medoff, vice president of Inside Joke and senior visual and media arts major, also said he believes that the organization should provide opportunities for new and aspiring comics.
“[It’s] the perfect place to start because it’s where you’ll be seen as a peer,” Medoff said.
Inside Joke holds open mic events like Rick Astley Deep Cuts both on and off-campus, but Hauptman makes sure aspiring comics receive guidance as well as opportunity. Hauptman runs writing workshops on Sundays at 2 p.m., either in the Max Cafe or his apartment, and at 7 p.m. prior to every show. These are an opportunity for comics to test their jokes, collaborate, and improve their material.
“We’re not here just so people can get up on stage for three minutes, tell jokes, and then go back to the dorm,” Hauptman said. “We’re here to really help people if this is what they want to do with their life.”
Now in their third year, Hauptman and Medoff advise new comics to keep writing, to get uncomfortable, and to fail often.
“Bombing is so much more useful than doing well, because you learn to cope after that and then eventually you stop caring or you stop bombing,” Medoff said.
Aside from the ability to learn from failure, Hauptman says new performers should possess desire and diligence.
“The key to good stand-up is working really hard and wanting to be there,” Hauptman said. “The advice I’d give to people who’ve never done it before is just go to someone who’s done it before.”
Although a risky endeavor, Medoff said pursuing a career in comedy is far superior to the alternative.
“I’d rather risk it and then be disappointed later than not know what happened,” Medoff said. “Go do whatever you love and fail. Or don’t and be miserable and shut up because you’re bumming everyone out.”