The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Stand-up comedians speak up

On Thursdays throughout the semester, Bob’s Underground Café hosts Open Mics, where students are free to perform music, poetry, or other creative work — such as stand-up comedy. Bob’s also hosts professional comedians throughout the year and occasionally holds open mics specifically for comedy.  Many of Grinnell’s comedians first dipped their toes into the world of stand-up comedy in Bob’s, a humble but worthy venue offering a secure space and an applause-happy audience. From Kumail Nanjiani ’01 of HBO’s sitcom “Silicon Valley” to the quiet jokester pondering their first steps into the limelight, Bob’s has extended encouragement to all those who step on stage in the name of laughter and entertainment.

For Tague Zachary ’15, Emilio Gomez ’15 and Sam Dunnington ’14, who all began stand-up after coming to Grinnell, Bob’s provided a new avenue for self-expression and storytelling discovered through spontaneous, last-minute decisions to perform.

“The first time I did stand-up comedy I didn’t know I was doing it until 10 minutes beforehand,” Zachary said. “Lauren Teixeira [’14] asked if I was going up … and I threw everything together.”

In contrast, Gomez was encouraged by college friends who thought that he had rehearsed his material with them a bit too well, and a few too many times.

“My friends got tired of hearing my stories over and over again, so they said why don’t I give stand-up a shot,” Gomez said. “It was in the spirit of the moment, but I tried it and had a blast.”

For Dunnington, his motivation was plain and simple: the excitement that stand-up comedy provides.

“I do it for the patriotic thrill, and the high-stakes lifestyle, but also the laffs,” Dunnington wrote in an email to the S&B. “Drake would die for his district but I would die for the laffs.”

In addition to inspiring comedians such as Dave Chappelle, Seinfeld and Hannibal Buress, all three typically draw from their personal lives and random observations made throughout campus for humorous material. To make Grinnellians laugh, the three comedians prepare their comedy with careful focus and nurturing care over the course of days and months. The primary source of their comedy is Grinnell and its little quirks, which reveal themselves to the wary observer and wandering mind.

“I suck in a lot of ideas unconsciously. I suck in things from all over the place. I talk about sucking things a lot. That’s one of my main things in comedy,” Zachary said. “I throw down a lot of ideas in my phone, and I have a section in my phone called ‘my mind.’ That’s where I write down all the random things that pop into my mind.”

Sometimes, though, a bit of spontaneity and craziness is called for to add a dash of excitement to the normal routine.

“I brought a snake up on stage once in a little bucket, and on the side it said rattlesnake bucket. People who were sitting down right near the stage got pretty freaked out,” Zachary recalled. “I just thought it would be cool to have a snake up there with me … I have a gorilla to bring up next time. That’s a lie.”

Without the support of Bob’s devotees, none of the trio are sure if they would ever have gotten on their feet and realized their passions. In addition to providing personal support, the audience is always patient and accommodating, which is not often the case at many comedy clubs and open mic nights.

“With my experience doing stand-up at Grinnell, there’s a great crowd who is always ready to laugh,” Gomez said. “Ironically, I’m a pretty shy person. I’m always nervous beforehand, but everyone’s so nice … and a lot of really great people come and support me.”

With the success that stand-up comedy has had at Bob’s and at Grinnell in general, Dunnington hopes to create more events for students and staff, which Zachary and Gomez both mentioned that they hoped to see for the future.

“It’s frustrating in Grinnell, because we can do around two open mics a semester, where in big cities you can be going up every night of the week,” Dunnington wrote. “[That] is the only way to actually figure your style out and get better.”

“It’s a really fun thing to do on Thursday nights. Bob’s [has] always been packed into the hallway, there’s a huge demand for stand-up and the atmosphere at Grinnell is awesome,” Gomez said. “There’s not a lot of pressure, everyone’s very welcoming and nobody’s heckling or throwing stuff.”

For students who are interested in performing stand-up comedy or hearing more about the events, contact [standup] for more information.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *