By Jackson Howard, Daily Arts Writer
Published February 28, 2013
I get to Cantina five minutes before the show is scheduled to start, and the place is almost empty. A harsh white light illuminates a small wooden stage, and a handful of chairs line the front of it. The group members pace around the bar, and I start to get worried that no one will show. Slowly, though, Cantina starts to fill up, and at 9:12 p.m. the show begins.
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I pass by Dawes as I take a seat. “I’m mad nervous,” he tells me, gripping a beer. “I’m drinking. I’m just gonna go up there and vomit.”
By the time the host introduces the first comedian, the room is packed. I recognize some of the members, but I’m taken aback by how much they’ve improved since the night before. Punchlines and stories that fell flat only 24 hours before have been transformed into polished sets that are making the whole crowd laugh, and it’s clear that these guys take their comedy just as seriously as their schoolwork, if not more.
Wolfgram’s name is called, and he struts to the stage with confidence. He starts off a little fast but settles into a groove within the first minute. The crowd is clapping, people are turning to their friends with “how good is this kid?” looks, and I sigh with relief.
Then comes Dawes. I rub my fingers nervously as I watch him get on stage. He stands totally rigid, holding the mic with a tense grip, and I see the anxiety in his face. Come on, Michael. You got it. I think I’m just as scared as he is.
He opens his mouth, and the first joke he tells — a self-deprecating story about his fraternity life — hits the crowd like a tidal wave. People hoot, Dawes starts to loosen up, and I even notice a middle-age couple eating dinner laughing.
He ends on a bang, and I exhale again. He survived his first show. His friends cheer with pride from a booth behind me, and the audience is clapping wildly. Dawes steps to leave the stage, and, glancing out at the crowd for a brief moment, he lets out a smile.