With the chubby, pensive face of comedy god Louis CK in the background, 30 plus students packed into the Green Bean Coffee Lounge on Sept. 22nd to watch the first Brick Wall Comedy open mic of the year. Matt Parker (junior) and Rob Turner (junior) started “Brick Wall Comedy” last October as a creative outlet for aspiring student comedians on campus. The new club focuses on fostering an inclusive environment where all students are able to workshop their comedy and perform their work at open mic nights they host on campus.
Turner emceed the night, opening with various impressions, and ending with promises that Usher would perform.
Matthew O’Connell (senior) pitched a number of his patented band names, like “OBGYN Kenobi,” “Unflattering Ego” and “Church of Latter Day Drinking.” O’Connell assured the crowd that they could use the names for their own musical endeavors, if they so pleased.
Although O’Connell is not technically a member of the club, he has loved performing at open mics, namely because of the positive atmosphere.
“I was invited to perform last semester, and was quickly surprised by how supportive the crowd was,” O’Connell said via text. “I was ready to bomb, but their enthusiasm brought me back to try again this semester.”
The night concluded with Parker running through a variety of jokes, opening up his set proclaiming himself as a real people person.
“I know people well enough to know that I don’t like them,” Parker said.
The young comic then delved into a deep analysis of the purpose of pets by mimicking the possible dialogue between the first person to ever propose the idea of keeping an animal as a pet and their housemate.
“So then we eat the dog?” Parker said. “No, we just keep it. And feed it and love it. And watch it grow until it dies much sooner than we do.”
The event was the second open mic night hosted by Brick Wall Comedy. While last semester’s first open mic boasted a rousing 10 performers, Thursday’s show only showcased five student comedians.
Inspired by their interests in the entertainment industry, club founders Parker and Turner developed Brick Wall. Parker is an Media Arts & Culture major while Turner is a theater major and both have an ambition to one day enter this industry.
Parker transferred from the University of Oregon after his freshman year and was surprised to find that Occidental lacked a stand-up club presence. Despite Occidental’s prime location in Los Angeles, home of the American entertainment industry, Parker found that Occidental did not have a stand-up comedy club when he arrived on campus. Parker took it upon himself to create a community where students could explore comedy.
“It’s really a club for everyone that wants to try [stand-up] for the first time,” Parker said. “There’s no safer way than trying stand-up at an Oxy open mic night. Going out to an actual venue in LA would be terrifying for your first time, there’s so many expectations.”
Although the group may be primarily focused on stand-up, Parker has plans to explore the comedic realm beyond stand-up.
“I want to write scripts and comedy TV shows and doing stand-up is the easiest way to learn what people think is funny,” Parker said.
Similarly, Turner also shares an interest in writing. One of his most memorable early pieces was a farce about a group of croquet players attempting to play in the professional croquet leagues. Noting that this work was not as polished as his current pieces, he expressed appreciated for the learning process.
“I haven’t read it in a couple of years but I’m assuming it’s pretty bad,” Turner said. “But it was really fun to write with a professional playwright at a regional theatre and it really developed my love of comedy.”
As aspiring comedians, Turner and Parker have found similar philosophies that work for them when it comes to performing stand-up. Turner has found that a performer’s vulnerability can have a profound effect on a group of people when performing stand-up. Parker agreed and stressed that when it comes to telling jokes and performing bits, the key is authenticity.
“So many people will give pity laughs,” Parker said. “As long as you go up there and you genuinely think what you’re saying is funny, there will be people that empathize with you because it’s all about being genuine.”
Brick Wall Comedy is open to anyone, whether they want to try comedy for the first time or have a background in stand-up. Through this relatively new group, Parker and Turner hope to grow this comedic community at Occidental over time.
“I hope that seeing other people fail or succeed up there inspires others to say ‘I can try this,” Parker said.
According to Parker, open mics will be hosted monthly during fall semester, usually in the Green Bean on week nights. The group is also planning to host writing workshops as well as other comedy events. If you’re interesting in getting involved, follow Brick Wall Comedy on Facebook or email[email protected].
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