Nerves and excitement were evident at Cincinnati’s Go Banana’s Comedy Club, where 16 college students waited in eager anticipation of the task that lay ahead of them.
These aspiring stand-up comedians from Ohio State and Miami University were part of the National College Comedy Competition, sponsored by TBS and Rooftop Comedies, in the hopes of winning the grand prize, which is stage time at this year’s TBS Presents Just for Laughs, Chicago, an acclaimed national comedy festival June 12-17.
Over the past two months, 32 schools throughout the nation have been battling it out, first at talent shows against other students from their respective schools, then at regional competitions. OSU and Miami faced off in the second round of the competition and the winner advances to the round of 16, which begins April 1.
Not only were the rival schools facing off, but students were also competing against their own teammates for a final spot on their school’s team.
Friends and family who came to support the students filled the room to nearly-full capacity. Round tables set in close proximity to one another provided opportunity for chatting, drinking and eating some late dinner. Dim lights, a plethora of candles and plush couches contributed to the relaxing environment for the spectators to enjoy their evening.
The comedians, however, didn’t have the luxury or relaxation. A mere three minutes of stage time was all they had to make a lasting impression on the judges and the audience.
Collin Gossel, a first-year in music composition, had a specific method for excelling at this seemingly daunting task.
“The two main things I think about each time I get on stage is to, one, remember the order of everything I do, and, two, adopt to the audiences’ response,” Gossel said. “And on one particular occasion, not throwing up.”
Before the competition began, Gabe Kea, a professional comedian and the MC of the event, lightened the mood for the students with some jokes of his own.
When the time came for the contestants to take the stand, they rotated one by one from each school. The students’ acts invoked hearty laughter and gratified applause around the room.
“I couldn’t even pick a favorite act,” said Eric Sarich, an OSU graduate and the school’s fan bus chaperone. “Everyone was so different. No jokes were repeated. I thought they all did a great job.”
The three judges – all local comedians – collaborated to choose which students would advance to the online polls part of the competition. Kea announced their names.
OSU’s Dan Loper, Aaron Nemo, Sage Boggs and Gossel were granted minute-long clips of their act available on Rooftop Comedy’s NCCC website. Voting will take place April 12-15.
“Of all the shows I’ve attended so far in this competition, tonight was really great,” said Mette Andersen, a representative from Rooftop Comedies. “I was amazed at how prepared and really spectacular the comics were. To be honest though, I was even impressed by the talent search round at OSU. These kids were just even more prepared now.”