David Bowie, Uncle Sam hats, Emerson comedy troupes and organizational and political communication professors are not usually four things found in the same place at the same time. However, on the night of April 16, the Bill Bordy Theater and Auditorium housed all of them and more, thanks to Emerson's Communication, Politics and Law Association and the Emerson Democrats.
In the last presidential election, only 17 percent of voters were between the ages of 18 and 29, according to CNN.com. In an effort to prevent a repetition of these statistics and assist Emerson students with the process of registering to vote, CPLA and the Emerson Democrats hosted "Mock the Vote." The event was a night of political comedy, and provided a chance for students who were not yet registered to do so.
"Mock the Vote" gave everyone time to check out the registering booth, eat some of the free pizza and take in all of the patriotic decorations from red, white and blue balloons to plates decorated as flags. The program was organized to be a comedy competition, including anything from stand-up to sketches to videos, but before the competition got underway, the projector screen was utilized to play YouTube videos parodying the Obama/Clinton campaigns, and a music video of David Bowie's "Young Americans."
Finally, the panel of judges for the comedy show were introduced. It consisted of Linda Peek Schacht, Phillip Glenn, John Anderson and Michael Weiler, four professors from the organizational and political communication department, one of whom, Glenn, is the interim chair.
The competition started with a video submission from Emerson's all-female comedy troupe, the Girlie Project, followed by a few stand-up routines and a performance by another of Emerson's comedy troupes, Jimmy's Travelling All-Stars.
After each act, which was required to have a political theme, the judges offered a critique, which in many cases was at least as funny as the performance itself, and gave a score between zero and 10.
Weiler, who decided to participate as a judge because he thought it would be fun, was impressed by the talent he saw.
"To do humor on politics, you have to be well informed," he said. "All these contestants were."
Raising awareness was what the organizers said they had in mind when they planned "Mock the Vote." Alex Pearson, vice president of Emerson Democrats and secretary of CPLA, said she thought the event would be a good way to get students interested because political humor has become especially prevalent recently and she was glad the professors agreed to participate.
"We just wanted to get people talking, we don't want to cram the issues down people's throats," the sophomore organizational and political communication major said. "It's a good way to reach out without preaching."
At the end of the night, the scores were tallied and a winner was announced. The winning act, with a total score of 34 out of 40, was broadcast journalism major Blake Wexler and organizational and political communication major Eshan Misra, who performed a dual stand-up routine that was praised by the judges as brilliantly timed and hysterically funny. The two freshmen, though they read their jokes from scripts, were confident and played off each other with comments about each other's jokes that added to the humor and sarcasm.
Wexler said it was nice to win, especially since he was not used to doing political comedy.
"We thought it would either go really well or really, really terribly...[winning] was a big confidence booster," he said.
In addition to gaining confidence, Wexler also registered to vote that night. He said he probably wouldn't have before the election, if not for the event. He thought the idea of using comedy for the occasion was particularly effective.
"Humor in general is a good way to raise awareness about things," he said.
Weiler agreed that the format of the evening provided a comfortable atmosphere for students to address issues.
"It's fun and gets people out casually and informally," he said. "It's more effective than something formal and dull."
Pearson said she thought the turnout was good, and hopes to do similar events next year. She stressed that the goal of the event was not to promote the Democratic Party but to promote political involvement.
"I know a lot of people who want to be politically involved, but don't know how," she said.