- Sam Wolson/Daily
BY STEPHEN OSTROWSKI
Daily Arts Writer
Published November 21, 2010
The smell of Taco Bell trailed each punch line of the Nov. 17 student comic competition “MI Favorite Comic,” held in the basement of the Michigan League. Jokes were rife with sex, drugs and other Bluto Blutarsky-like tidings. Jerry Seinfeld at the Bellagio it wasn’t.
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LSA junior Ron Harlow, who emceed the event, is just one of a handful of student comics at the University. At age 19, Harlow put his sophomore year on hold and moved to Chicago to pursue stand-up comedy.
“I’m not saying I had a troubled past by any means,” Harlow said in an interview on Oct. 28. “At the same time there was a lot going on in my head and I needed to figure things out, and I figured that I would just take a shot at it.”
Harlow described his sabbatical as a “full-time” plunge into the craft — he would write comedy during the day and frequent Chicago’s many clubs at night. The Evanston, Ill. native spoke positively of the experience.
“(Comedy) takes years — it’s a craft, you know,” Harlow said. “You really have to perfect it over a long time, and luckily for me I had plenty of opportunities to get up there and try it out. The best way to learn is through experience.”
After a year in Chicago, Harlow returned to Ann Arbor to continue his sophomore year. Between performances at Detroit-area venues and the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase, he founded LOL ROFL, a student-run comedy club for which members meet weekly to exchange feedback on jokes. LOL ROFL also hosts occasional shows.
Harlow, who cites the late Mitch Hedberg among his comedic influences, admits that the student life and that of the aspiring comic can be a difficult juggling act. He commits himself to weekly three-hour writing sessions to ensure an output of material.
Also performing that night was School of Art & Design junior Eli Yudin, who has been frequenting open mics at the Showcase since last February.
As a member of University improv comedy group ComCo and a former member of campus club the Impro-fessionals, Yudin is no stranger to performance art. Stand up comedy, Yudin says, presents a unique challenge.
“(Stand-up is) just such a complete leap of faith,” Yudin said.
According to Yudin, the singularity of stand-up comedy can be intimidating.
“I don’t get as nervous about improv because if you’re not funny, you have a bad day or something, there’s somebody else in the scene to pick you up,” Yudin explained. “(In stand-up), the other thing is you can’t look like you’re having a bad time; if you look awkward, the audience immediately senses it, and they can’t laugh.”
Yudin has also performed multiple times in his native Washington, D.C. The Zach Galifianakis-influenced comic highlighted the differences between performing to his hometown crowd and the Ann Arbor community, saying he performs politically charged humor for the former.
The open-mindedness of Ann Arborites caters to Yudin’s self-described brand of “weird” and “dark” observational humor.
“I think people in Ann Arbor are pretty open,” Yudin said. “It’s a very cool liberal crowd, they’re open to a lot of weird humor; they’re open to a lot of things. They’re polite for the most part. You don’t really get a lot of heckles or anything like that.”
Yudin’s views on performance mirror those of LSA senior Paul Manganello, who, despite having only performed stand-up comedy since his sophomore year of college, cited an enthusiasm for comedy albums dating back to elementary school.
“I think for me the appeal of stand-up is that it allows for good writing,” Manganello said. “So a good stand-up at his best will be reading you an essay and expressing a point of view, and there’s a poetry and a rhythm.”
Manganello, who first performed at one of the “MI Favorite Comic” competitions, has also done open mics in Ann Arbor and Royal Oak.