What do you do when your alma mater builds an extravagant student center with a perfect setting for stand-up comedy?
Come back and perform, of course.
That’s what MadTV veteran Michael McDonald, Chelsea Lately comedian Brad Wollack and the LAist-dubbed “2-man sketch comedy beast” Tremendosaur, Justin Michael and Jacob Reed, triumphantly did Sunday night. The show, dubbed “Commedus Alumnus” by USC Spectrum, was part of the Ronald Tutor Campus Center’s opening extravaganza and took place in Tommy’s Place, Traditions’ performance venue element.
Tremendosaur played host to the show, echoing strongly its recent improv past with campus group Second Nature. After a low-energy start to the show that involved some expressed bitterness about the niceness of the center and a quite failed joke about cheetahs and poker, they took a definite second seat to the real action.
The audience could not help but peg the youngsters as what they properly label in the comedy world as “noobs.” The pair even spent a good five minutes bickering — non-comically — about whether or not to do a certain segment.
The crowd, which, according to an informal clap-o-meter held by the duo, was mostly freshmen. Freshmen, unfamiliar with the real world of comedy shows, don’t have a two-drink limit to get them liquidly prepared for silliness.
The real heart of the event, Wollack and McDonald, explored topics familiar and dear to the USC student population, including an inexplicable anger toward the Department of Public Safety, the shock that the Daily Trojan now prints in color, living in dorms and the unforgettable experience of being mugged at knifepoint late at night outside of Del Taco.
Wollack, the unbelievably pasty E! Entertainment Television regular, opened with an almost uncomfortably raunchy set. Nothing was sacred: the color of his pubic hair, Reggie Bush, his sex habits with his wife and the Holocaust were just some of the subjects of his bits.
He even answered a phone call from an old college buddy, who didn’t believe that Wollack would be allowed to perform at ’SC.
More enjoyably, Wollack’s quips at noisy audience members combined with his pronounced Trojan background gave students a familiar and intimate show. He even gave such audience members names: “Black Guy 1,” “Black Guy 2,” “Asian Girl/Senior Drunkard” and most notably, “Masturbate Boy.”
McDonald’s set started off with a pleasant recounting of his ’SC experience and his first heartbreak: surrendering a fast food burrito to muggers on Figueroa. Sounding off on trashy television, Arizona and being mistaken for another funny Trojan alumnus, Will Ferrell, the actor indulged the crowd by doing a little bit of his beloved infantile Stuart character from MadTV.
Though McDonald’s set verged into the depressing — he even discussed his mother’s sick jokes, which included fooling him into thinking she had a tumor by putting a contact on her tongue — his underlying message was appropriately hopeful for the young audience members in the audience.
“Find the funny in whatever issues you might be going through,” McDonald said. “Sometimes, the cancer turns out to be a contact.”
Tommy’s Place, which Wollack dubbed as “sitting room only” has the perfect vibe for comedy shows. With comfortable seats and easy access to beers and bar food, Tommy’s Place echoes “grown-up” venues like the Laugh Factory and other L.A.-area comedy clubs.
There is real potential for some truly great comedy shows here, but groups other than lanyard-sporting, dewy-eyed freshmen just have to get excited about it too. Though the administration has clearly made the venue — and even next-door Traddies — democratically and appropriately accessible to a large part of the student population, promoters need to make a concerted effort to cater to uppperclassmen, graduate students, and staff and faculty in order to keep the venue healthily mixed.
To not do so would be a waste of some really great potential.
Perhaps later events — not affiliated with the usually freshmen-heavy Welcome Week shenanigans — will bring a more diverse population to the venue.
When less than 10 percent of the room is plowing through pitchers during a comedy show, that 10 percent can’t help but feel like drunkards. Especially for “Asian Girl/Senior Drunkard.”