Saturday Night Live cast member Jay Pharoah headlined the annual Welcome Back Comedy Show, hosted by the USC Special Events Committee on Sunday night at McCarthy Quad. The free event, which more than 3,000 students attended, was held in McCarthy Quad.
Hosted by USC alumnus Jack Michelman, the show featured performances by comedians Jay Pharoah, Brent Morin and Dillon Garcia. Students sat in the quad in a picnic-style setting to view the three-hour comedy event.
SComedy, Popchips, Jarritos, Hubert’s Lemonade and Diablo Beverages sponsored free snacks and promotional items, including plush cats and eye masks, for attendees. Though many might have attended for the free lemonade, the goal of the event from the perspective of Special Events Director Kim Chu was simple — to excite new, transfer and returning Trojans about being on campus.
“I knew [Pharoah] from SNL so I thought this was great, the students would be excited about it, especially the freshman who had just come here,” Chu said. “I wanted someone people would recognize this year.”
Based on the positive reactions from the crowd, Chu’s strategy appeared to have worked.
“I didn’t know Jay [Pharoah] was performing. I walked in and it was the greatest surprise of my life,” Jeff Levine, a freshman majoring in environmental studies, said. ”It was the greatest hours I’ve ever encountered.” Pharoah, who will be returning to his fourth season on SNL this year, said he was surprised by the size of the audience. Pharoah started in theater at the age of eight and was doing stand-up comedy by the age of 15, but the experienced performer said he still gets surprised.
“I don’t know how I got here in front of 3,000 students. Three thousand people is crazy. I kept thinking, ‘Is Kendrick Lamar here? Who’re they clapping at?’” Pharoah said.
Known best for his impressions of notable celebrities such as Denzel Washington, Jay-Z, Will Smith and even President Barack Obama, Pharoah’s comedic set included audience involvement and invited audience members on stage to take part in the show. Most notably, while doing a Will Smith impression, he led the audience in the theme song from Smith’s show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
“Characters are never hard for me. Doing voices is never hard, that’s pretty much second nature. It’s kind of like Prince having a hit song. You wouldn’t expect Prince not to do ‘Purple Rain’ or Drake not to do ‘Marvin’s Room’ or ‘Best I Ever Had.’ I like when people appreciate it all, not just the voices,” Pharoah told the Daily Trojan.
The newest addition to the NBC television franchise Undateable, Brent Morin also took the stage Sunday with comedy that focused on familiar high school anecdotes, pre-pubescent crushes and the importance of perspective.
For his USC performance, Morin drew upon his own life experiences during his stand-up routine.
“That voice we all have, I’m able to call out. For me, stand-up works best when you’re coming from a real place. Then I don’t fake that confidence. This happened to me. When I talk about high school, everybody did think it was the end of the world,” Morin said.
For Dillon Garcia, comedy is a job in entertainment where aging is encouraged, because life experience brings laughs.
“I talk about college-relatable things, empowering the people of our age. I’m talking to my friends, basically. Most of the stuff I’m going to, they relate to the most,” Garcia said.
Though Garcia might not be as famous as Justin Bieber, he has already made up a slogan for himself.
“I’m the Justin Bieber of comedy but I don’t give them the Bieber fever, I give them the ‘Dill Chills,’” Garcia said.
Performers were not the only ones who were enthusiastic about the show. Students were also excited by the comedy.
“I’ve been a fan of [Jay Pharoah] ever since SNL. His skit at the ESPYS of Jay-Z, that was insane,” Alex Budde, a freshman majoring in biomedical engineering, said. “I love his impressions. He’s hilarious.”