Walking into the Joe Crowley Student Union theater, a single microphone stood on the stage with a massive sign behind it that said “comedy night.” Students waited in the theater for a night of laughs and knee-slappers as the University of Nevada improv club performed to an almost full house for comedy night, hosted by the Joe Crowley Student Union.
Comedy night started with a performance from the improv club. This quintet, led by club president Noah Ahmed, started the night with a lot of crowd work. According to Ahmed, that’s what improv is all about: being able to take suggestions from your audience and come up with a skit on the spot.
“Improv is something weird,” said Ahmed while coaxing the shy audience into participating.
After Ahmed used his high energy levels to break the audience out of their shells, the show began. The four other members of the UNR improv team walked out from backstage to begin their first game of the night called “What?”
The premise of this game is simple: the audience gives the performers a scene and relationship, and those performers have to act it out. However, when the host, Ahmed, says “what?” they have to redo whatever the last thing they said was, and make it the opposite.
The designated scene and relationship for this were cousins from south Florida, even though the audience wanted them to be from Alabama — Ahmed had to make some changes to keep the game relatively family friendly. This game was the shortest of the night, but it did give some good laughs.
The next game of the night was “Replay,” a game in which the audience would give a suggestion for a scene, then one minute later they would have to do it in a different genre. The scene given to the performers was a clown going to mime school. Then, after one minute, the performers did the same scene, except this time in a murder mystery genre. After this, they did the same scene, as a nature documentary. As a final scene, they performed a musical. This game was probably my least favorite of the three they played, but the audience interactions definitely helped.
The final game that the UNR improv team played would be “Four Square.” In this one, the actors were separated into four different individual scenes, and every time the performers switched positions, the scene would change.
The first scene given to the performers was a meet-cute between a butcher and a customer. The next was finding your girlfriend’s husband, and the scene after that dealt with a pumpkin and a fairy godmother. The final scene was at the entrance of a K-pop concert.
This game was definitely the highlight of the improv team performance. Each scene had high energy, and the jokes and interactions that the performers had made were unique and very creative. My favorite of the four scenes was the K-pop scene due to how random the interactions were.
Overall the performance by the UNR improv team was pleasantly surprising. Their next outing, on April 15 in the theater on the third floor of the Joe, will be in head-to-head competition with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas improv team.
Then, the headliner for the night took the stage. Fumi Abe was born in Ohio and moved to New York when he was a kid. After going to school in New York, he moved to Los Angeles where he now lives and performs. Abe has never been to Reno, which he made clear in the first lines of his act.
“What’s the vibe in your city?” he said in his introduction. “Are you guys horny?”
A highlight of Abe’s performance was definitely his crowd work. In almost every joke that he made, he interacted with the audience in some way. He would tell his joke, and once he saw how the audience reacted to it, another would roll off.
A lot of his humor was very raunchy, for the first 15 to 20 minutes of his 45 minute set, most, if not all, of the jokes he told had something to do with sex. Whether it be sexting, dating over the pandemic or losing his virginity at 22, sex was a consistent theme in the opening of his set.
After those 20 minutes however, Abe could tell that the audience was getting tired of innuendos and explicit sex jokes, so he transitioned to his next theme of the night: talking about how old he was. Abe is 33 years old and he made it known to the audience. In almost every joke for the rest of the night, he would bring up his age. While some of these jokes were funny, the effect of hearing about how old he was kind of grew old — pun intended.
Despite his overused shticks, Abe seemed to be a crowd favorite of the night. His jokes were funny, his stories were intriguing, crowd work was top notch and the crowd was consistently laughing.
The night took a turn at the start of the open mic session. In this, students from UNR were able to come onto stage and tell jokes that they had written to see if the crowd liked them — here is where awkwardness ensued.
The first comedian took the stage and had a promising start. He told a few jokes that got some chuckles out of people, but then he started doing accents. Accents in comedy tread very, very thin ice, due to the possibility of racism if you do not do them properly, or say the wrong things. Unfortunately, our comedian said all of the wrong things, and definitely stereotyped several groups of people.
The next two comedians were honestly nothing special. Thankfully, In their sets they didn’t stereotype marginalized groups of people, but they weren’t exactly saying anything funny either.
The next set was another problematic one, with our comedian coming on stage and immediately pretending to be a blind person. His set was incredibly awkward and uncomfortable due to his mannerisms. He talked very quietly, and didn’t really make any jokes, but told more strange anecdotes.
The final comedian of the night was more of a motivational speaker than a comedian. He was very affirming to the audience with him calling multiple people beautiful and telling us that we are worth it. While it was great being able to hear that, it wasn’t really comedy.
The open mic session was a very strange experience. Between the racism, the ableism, and the awkward laughs, UNR comics definitely need to work on their material.
Patrick McNabb can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @patrickmcnabb_
Editor’s Note: In an earlier version of this article, it was implied that the UNR improv club hosted this event. That is wrong. This event was hosted by the Joe Crowley Student Union.