ComFest: Connection Through Comedy
If any readers went to all four of Skidmore’s 28th annual Comfest shows and are experiencing a comedy hangover, wishing you had Tufts University’s iboy eight to tell you whether or not NYU actually found a cure to PTSD using the theme song to Will and Grace, you are not alone. If you are wishing you had found yourself this morning in front of a pot of magic focus potion, that also found your true love, concocted by the fairies of the Improvised Shakespeare Company, I see you.
With fourteen college comedy groups featured and an eclectic group of four professional performers, this weekend made visible the kind of intelligence, quick thinking and emotional savvy that a job in the comedic field truly requires. Witnessing the range of experience between student comedians and well-seasoned pros, I developed a sense of pride in my fellow peers, in their bravery and talent. It is with the student improv groups that the process of diving into the unknown with ripe ideas and fearlessness is most transparent. In comparison with The Improvised Shakespeare Company, one could easily forget that their ad-libbing was unscripted. This is a remarkable product of experience and expertise, but their strong talent began where our friends are now, learning how to create comedic universes out of thin air.
Speaking of, one theme that pervaded many of the student groups was life after death and who God really is. Sometimes, He was a general member of community town meetings and other times, we were reminded to deconstruct the popularized idea of a utopian, cloud-filled heaven, because in reality it is an ant farm. Groups were performing sketches about contemporary issues surrounding humans’ relationship with technology, death, and of course, politics.
One group showcased the arcane nature of a certain mystery-limbed presidential candidate. Others were more optimistic for our political future, promising that the two women characters from a parodied version of the childhood movie favorite, The Sand Lot, would become our 46th and 47th presidents. It was not until Aparna Nancherla and Troy Walker that more serious issues like misogyny and racism were introduced and not until Nick and Gabe did we identify our white, beer-drinking, divided country on the brink of self-destruction – heavy topics.
However, tackling these meta themes, that in everyday life plague our mental existence, is what makes the comedic art so enriching. Creating laughter is a sign of connection and understanding between a comedian and his/her audience. There is a sense of togetherness and comradery in a theater when we can all laugh about difficult, heart-wrenching issues in solidarity; it shows a want and need for change which is all we can hope for in our times.
But in the end, the group that most showed the kind of unbelievable wit required for connecting with the audience and helping the audience connect with each other was The Improvised Shakespeare Company. Effortlessly spewing phrases in iambic pentameter sprinkled with common vernacular, watching this professional group perform was like witnessing mental acrobatics. I was not alone in this, as the group received a full-housed, standing ovation for the only premier of The Merchant of Adderall. I left in a daze, thinking that this last show made the weekend-long event incredibly worth it.