It’s not often that I laugh so hard the muscles around my cheekbones start to ache. It’s a satisfying sensation, as if my muscles are sore from a work-out. Especially in this anxious political climate, any chance to work those muscles is worth savoring. This past Sun., Jan. 22, I felt that familiar ache right above my cheeks at the Yale College Council’s Winter Comedy Show, where three comedians performed at Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall in front of a packed house. The first performance was by Abigail Bessler, SM ’17, winner of Last Comic Standing. Following her was Anna Drezen, a writer for Saturday Night Live, and finishing the night was SNL star Aidy Bryant. By making fun of many familiar aspects of the Yale social scene, the comedians offered a chance to ease the tension in today’s national atmosphere.
Before the three stand-up performances, the crowd was greeted by the humor of emcee Charlie Bardey, SM ’17. Bardey began the show by noting the unusual time we are living in today. With a new presidential administration and a sharply divided national opinion, we have entered a period of fear and uncertainty. Despite the unnerving backdrop of the show, Bardey kept the mood light, calling the national atmosphere “koo-koo-bananas” and noting that comedy is important in worrying times. His monologue reminded us of the benefits of being able to laugh away anxiety. Indeed, the show was a welcome distraction from the events currently dominating the national consciousness, and a comforting reminder of the bliss that can be found in a simple sense of humor.
All three performers scored enormous laughs by taking some jabs at stereotypical Yale students. Bessler discussed the downsides of hooking up with a Whiffenpoof. Drezen opened her set with a gleeful, “Hi Smart Assholes!”, and commented on how busy Yale girls are getting fingered by Rhodes Scholars. Bryant did a segment answering Yale trivia questions, pretending to be very familiar with the concept of “Woads.” While not limited to Yale-related humor, the show certainly played on these themes pretty heavily. There seems to be something especially entertaining about jokes relevant to our own lives. Perhaps it is the comfort of dealing with topics that are familiar to us, or the excitement of hearing a star like Aidy Bryant talk about something so close to home, or the satisfaction of being able to laugh at ourselves. It also may be indicative of how much we love ourselves and love having our lives as the center of attention. Either way, as masters of this craft, Bryant and Drezen adapted very well to the crowd of Yalies. “We chose Aidy and Anna because they bring something special to campus, which in my opinion, we all saw yesterday evening at the show,” said YCC Events Planner Lauren Sapienza, PC ’18.
The performance was especially significant for Bessler, since this was only her second time doing stand-up in front of an audience. Her jokes were especially focused on the themes of relationships and sex. Despite being a common subject among friends, sex freely discussed on a stage is always exciting and engaging, and her stories were especially hilarious for their ridiculous twists. She finished her segment by reading Urban Dictionary definitions of sex terms, narratives that, she admitted, substituted for erotica in her high school years. “I was a little concerned when I first got up because there was a row of parents in the front—I don’t know who brought them; they were not mine—and I didn’t know how they would react to Urban Dictionary erotica jokes. But they got into it,” Bessler said. Her performance was an opportunity to be freed from traditional social restrictions, indulge in an entertaining take on life at Yale, and find sanctuary in the euphoria of laughter. Bessler’s social commentary, as did the entire show, served as a reminder of the way good humor can respond to an occasionally scary world.