“Thank you all for coming out… you all look… like children,” Chris Redd said as his first joke of the night. Cornell’s “children” were very different from his weekly Saturday night audiences at 30 Rock. Statler Auditorium was packed on March 6 for the Cornell University Program Board’s comedy event starring Saturday Night Live repertory player, Chris Redd.
The energy immediately picked up when Redd walked on stage. As a huge improv fan, I felt my heart race from seeing an SNL member in person for the first time. Redd has been on SNL’s cast since 2017, and in 2018, he won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music and Lyrics for the SNL song, “Come Back Barack.” Redd has also acted in television and film, including his current role on NBC’s Kenan. Furthermore, he’s currently on his own stand-up tour, “Why am I Like This?” in the United States, and soon in the United Kingdom. Basically, he’s a busy guy — and he took his one day off to come to Ithaca.
Despite his hectic schedule, Redd has an immediate ease on stage. His love for comedy was apparent to anyone in the Statler that night, and his laid-back and playful demeanor made the jokes seem effortless and natural. Of course, that’s what the best comedians do.
His audience of college students set the tone for most of his jokes. “See I’m high just a little bit… oh yeah, you guys can’t admit you’re high because you’re children.” Similar to the recurring children joke, Redd repeatedly circled back to bits he said before. These jokes not only signaled that we grasped each word of his performance, but also nodded to Redd’s compelling comedy tactics.
Redd capitalized on Cornell students; after all, we’re an easy punchline. “Y’all at Cornell — don’t you all have to like, give blood to be here?” began the Cornellian jokes for the evening. The most memorable part of his set was his interactions with the audience. He called on several students and asked them their name, major and where they were from. He came to understand the variety of majors at Cornell — an essential part of Cornell culture — in his hour on stage. One student shared that they’re a Human Biology, Health and Society major, to which Redd yelled in reply, “She’s studying a whole sentence… that shit had a comma in it!” After an information science major replied, Redd squealed, “Information Science?” and then continued on with a lengthy remark about what he thought it meant. He concluded matter-of-factly, “That’s what I do… confuse smart people.”
After the standard questions, he would ask what they had wanted to be when they were younger and what they want to be now. I admired these inquiries as they stretched beyond mere surface level questions. Unsurprisingly, the majority of the responses were a single resounding word: doctor. I would bet Redd’s takeaway was that Cornell is a place composed of majors with commas and a pre-med culture, and I would say he got the gist.
Past the content itself, Redd had a consistent roast style. He frequently circled back to roasting one student for wearing a muscle tee, another for believing in love at first sight and yet another for being bad at test-taking. He also would laugh at himself. I love sketches where comedians occasionally laugh at themselves; it may be an easy move or generic reaction to make, but it works on me everytime. Whenever one of his new jokes would occasionally flop, he would say, “That’ll be good in a month!” as he laughed, hinting at the constantly evolving nature of his set.
Although I adore SNL and the collective nature of its cast, I believe it’s important to separate comedians from the group and give them unique credit. You could see the energy in Redd from the freedom of his solo standup performance compared to scripted SNL. He demonstrated his ability to intertwine social topics with comedy, dynamically hooking into the crowd’s interests and sweeping the stage with his contagious energy. He laughed, danced and screeched perfectly at ease. Redd’s immense ability to keep the crowd laughing from start to finish signals to me that we’ll be seeing many more solo acts from him in the future.
Redd took his one day off to come to Cornell, and boy did we love it. Cornell is a competitive and academic institution, and although we did not need to donate blood to come here, students still need to be reminded not to take everything so seriously. Cornell needed some laughter and a person to roast them, and luckily for us, we received the witty, provocative and intoxicating Chris Redd.
Gillian Lee is a freshman in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at [email protected].