The first thing I noticed when walking toward the front of Bailey Hall were the immense throngs of people standing outside the steps, loudly milling about and talking to each other as they tried to enter. They came for the first in-person event at Bailey Hall since the beginning of the pandemic: a standup comedy show by comedian and YouTuber Trevor Wallace, hosted by the Cornell University Program Board on Aug. 28.
Described on his website as “a 27 year old stand up comedian, writer & actor,” Wallace first came to fame on YouTube, posting short comedic videos, collaborating with friends and other YouTubers and later starting a podcast titled Stiff Socks. More recently, he has collaborated with brands such as Chipotle and Snickers. His appearance at Cornell comes amidst more of his performances nationwide, including at other colleges and universities.
Before the beginning of his set, the atmosphere in Bailey was rife with anticipation. After a spirited introduction, Wallace took to the stage with a rapturous “wassup dawg?!” and began his routine with enthusiasm and aplomb. During his set, Wallace explored various topics, including his confusion about the meaning of Level B’s name, humorous commentary about a drive-in strip club in Texas and his own college experiences at a self-described “state school,” where he majored in film and joined a fraternity. He imbued all of these topics with his laidback self-assuredness and caustic wit.
One of the most engaging parts of the show was Wallace’s clever banter with the audience. Out of all the aspects of live shows that were lost during the pandemic, one of the most important is the performer’s ability to interact with an audience — to use a crowd’s reactions to enhance their material, transforming it from a simple routine to something more unique and immediate. “Don’t lie!” a random person up front shouted as Wallace spoke about his day spent in Ithaca; Wallace turned this interjection into a well-received exchange, throwing this person’s demand back at him and eventually having a near full-blown conversation together, to the delight of the audience. Then, without missing a beat, he transitioned to his next bit by bringing the conversation audience-wide, asking: “You guys do drugs?” No matter the portion of the set, the audience remained a part of it.
Near the end of the show, Wallace switched gears to an informal Q&A, answering questions, such as who his favorite YouTubers were (his friends) and where a first-year student should go for a first date (Home Depot, and more seriously, a “day thing”). It was the culmination of that exhilarating back-and-forth from the rest of the night; everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Eventually, the show ended and Wallace disappeared backstage. The lights in Bailey Hall went back up; the audience almost immediately rose from their seats, crowding out of the entrance together in the same way in which they had entered. Standing in the middle of that crowd, I could not help but feel that all of this was a return to something — not simply to an in-person event, but to a way of being together and experiencing something collectively as an audience. For the first time in a long time, all of us were feeding off of each other’s reactions in this shared space rather than staying in solitude behind a screen. Coming together in this fashion, whether by going to class or attending a comedy event, may take some getting used to for everyone, but events like these show that it comes to us more readily than we may think.
And what a fitting first event to return to.
John Colie is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected] He currently serves as an Assistant Arts Editor on The Sun’s 139th Editorial board.