On Monday nights at Nature’s Brew, a coffee shop just north of campus, students can order their usual coffee and croissant with a side of stand-up comedy.
Co-hosted by Tatiana Aarons, a junior majoring in media arts and practice, and Madeleine Hamilton, a junior majoring in business administration, Charity Night treats audiences to a show put on by a variety of comedians from the Los Angeles area. Nature’s Brew, a casual study spot for many students looking to escape the confines of the library, welcomes the production as a unique complement to guests’ dining experiences.
The program happens every three weeks, adding up to five shows in total by the end of the semester. During each 90-minute show, Aarons and Hamilton introduce approximately six guest comedians, who each perform a 10- to 12-minute long set.
The show was created five years ago by two aspiring stand-up comedians under a different name, “Prom Night.” Two years later, the title was changed to “Ballers” before being handed off to the current co-hosts. Charity Night, like its predecessors, was named to create humorous themes for each of the events — most recently, Aarons and Hamilton co-hosted “Charity Night for Middle Children.” Because the production revamps its style with every new host, Charity Night — which has put on only two shows in total — is in the process of creating its own identity in the stand-up world.
“We’re still starting out,” Aarons said. “All the shows, because they’re renamed, have a building-up period. It’s a matter of getting the word out.”
Contrary to what its name suggests, Charity Night does not donate any profits to community foundations. In fact, the show does not make any profit at all.
But that does not mean Charity Night refuses to serve the community. In addition to providing audience members with a humorous break from the anxieties of school life, Aarons and Hamilton reach out to students interested in stand-up by giving them the opportunity to perform themselves.
“Charity Night is an opportunity for students to take time out of their weeks to laugh and maybe meet a comedian or two,” Aarons said. “[Charity Night] is important to me because I get to enable professional comedians to do what they love, and I get to enable USC students both to participate in stand-up and to watch it.”
These newcomers can also hone their skills by learning from the best. In the past, Nature’s Brew has seen comedians who have also been hosted by television hosts Conan O’Brien and Stephen Colbert. Most notably, former Girl Code comedian Nicole Byer and Comedy Central writer Matt Ingebretson have graced the stand-up stage.
Putting both these components together, however, is not as simple as it appears. As hosts, Aarons and Hamilton often struggle to satisfy the audience while dealing with the unpredictability of a live show.
“Comedians are unreliable — we’ve had some come out 10 minutes before the show ends and do their sets,” Aarons said. “There’s also the stress factor of getting people out. We’ve been lucky the past two times, but it is a lot to ask for people to come [to the show] on Monday nights.”
For those looking to break into the industry, Charity Night is a rare chance to train in an underappreciated art. The stand-up comedy show, a positive and lighthearted addition to the community, is not as prevalent as it should be, in Aarons’ opinion.
“Anyone who’s an aspiring stand-up knows that open-mics aren’t very lucrative,” Aarons said. “They’re often in dingy bars at 6 p.m. with three other comics who are in their 50s, just out of jail. I thought [Charity Night] was a huge opportunity for me to meet people in the industry and constantly have a platform to practice what I like doing.”
Charity Night’s next three events will take place on Oct. 23, Nov. 13 and Dec. 4.