Common ground can be found in comedy, especially when it’s live. There’s something about the spontaneity on stage — those pivots the comedians make — that sends audience reactions amok. Yet somewhere in that chaos, people find that they are bonded in a way to others who are also witnessing the routine.
We go to a school with the resources to draw big comedy names to campus, such as Key and Peele, Nathan Fielder and Colin Jost, but this semester Carolina Productions is focusing on giving us more shows with lesser known comedians.
Carolina Productions is hosting Comedy Club Night, featuring Rubyn Warren and Mike E. Winfield. These two were scouted out at a conference in Baltimore and suggested as good acts to bring down to USC.
Jessie Ary, director of comedic events for Carolina Productions, is a major factor behind this push for more comedy events. She’s a fan of stand-up and finds value in bringing smaller names to campus.
“It’s supposed to simulate a comedy club where you don’t know who you’re gonna see or what you’re gonna see … entertainment that’s not necessarily like a stadium comedy show," Ary said.
Though the shows with larger names are very well-attended, Ary’s priorities this semester lie with the smaller acts, the ones who might be just on the verge of really breaking into the industry.
“The range in talent isn’t that huge," Ary said. "There are really good comedians who are really just as funny as well-known comedians."
She continued: "We’ve succeeded at catching up-and-coming comedians before. Key and Peele, for example, came to USC for significantly less money than they are worth now, because we booked them just before they exploded in popularity."
Warren and Winfield have each been performing stand-up for over ten years. Both are out of school, but events like Comedy Club Night are one of the reasons that comedians are able to thrive in the industry.
“It means a lot because it's going to be a very large crowd that's coming out to laugh and have a good time,” Warren said.
It’s a positive showing on Carolina Productions that the group is able to get comedians with real experience who have grown from what they have learned in their past.
“An experience that can happen early in your life can really guide you to some positive directions,” Winfield said. “People will eventually stop doing what they think they have to do and solely do what they are supposed to do.”
Both comedians are just the kind of people Carolina Productions are looking for — persistent and possibly on the doorstep of huge success.
“The most challenging part of comedy for me is that I cannot only settle for greatness, there's more that I want from this and that takes time and I'm no longer patient,” Winfield said.
Warren said the challenge of stand-up is that there's "no blueprint for success."
“You just keep trying and trying until something hits for you. As long as you stay with it, success will come,” he said.
The planning process itself generally starts a semester before the comedians come to campus, and Ary enjoys this part a lot. However, the real fun comes when the hype is building among students, when the lines are stretched down the street and everyone is excited. This is when crew members who put the shows together get to see their work come to fruition.
“It’s basically a very rewarding way to see that it actually made a difference, that you got to make a difference and contribute to the University’s social calendar, which is cool,” Ary said.
A lot of work goes into booking a comedy show, and the process is not stress-free. Ary is directly involved with ensuring transportation and communicating with the comedians to get them to the show smoothly. And there are mishaps, too, sometimes caused by celebrities that don’t comply with the rules and boundaries initially set out for them.
“It’s definitely realistic that people might not be what you expect them to be so you kind of have to be on your toes and be prepared for anything, which ends up being really fun,” Ary said.
For students looking to make it in the entertainment industry, real-world opportunities like these are invaluable.
Ary herself could not have imagined the scope of interactions she has had with celebrities since beginning her term as the comedic coordinator at Carolina Productions. She realizes that this is not the kind of position that gives you a trial-run of running an event; it’s the real thing.
The goal of events like these is to enrich USC students’ experiences here and maybe bring them out to see something new. Ary thinks it’s important to get out and attend events that your school has to offer, because it may challenge your preconceived notions.
“That’s sort of what I’m trying to go for with this comedy club night," Ary said. "Just trust that the students who put it together put a lot of thought into whether or not they think it’s going to be entertaining."
Carolina Productions also take into account feedback from students; they want to know if they succeeded at planning a fun show for us. If an event is not well received, they try to assess what they could have done differently and how they will address those things in the future. Feedback is not too difficult to get — it can come from polls, pit crews and speaking with students on a more general basis.
“They’re vocal when they’re excited and vocal when they didn’t like it,” Ary said.
The Comedy Club Night will be at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Russell House ballroom. Admission is free for students.