Courtesy of Pun Intended.

March 31, 2022

Tragedy Plus Timing: An In-Depth Look at ‘Comedy Unmasked’

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Cornell certainly has no shortage of means by which students can express themselves creatively. One such example is the one and only Pun Intended, a stand up comedy club on campus. With their prior shows having been lauded as “consistently humorous,” there was a lot of hype for the young club to live up to at their show on Saturday, March 26. Yet, they exceeded any and all expectations. 

The club’s latest show, aptly titled “Comedy Unmasked,” ran for a respectable 90 minutes. This live performance in a Statler lecture hall featured a broad array of talented young comedians, taken from the student bodies of both Cornell University and Ithaca College. Their acts, which featured content ranging from chalk-based art to overly chatty Starbucks patrons, did a wonderful job of making the time fly by, whilst also leaving their audience hungry for more.

Starting off the night strong was club founder and president, Skylar Holzman ’22. With a set piece that negotiated between topics such as his likeness to the rapper Lil Dicky and his friend from high school who tried to join ISIS, his only limit seemed to be his time constraint. His excitement was infectious. Before every single performer went up to the microphone, Holzman was there to get the crowd excited and bring the energy up, an impressively effective feat. When I interviewed him after the show, he said that he wants to continue performing comedy as a career going forwards. Additionally, he expressed that the team aspect involved is what really inspires him, citing the club as his proudest achievement at Cornell.

Following Holzman was the first of three comediennes who began their sets with the phrase, “So my therapist says … .” Whether or not this was planned is unclear. Taking the stage right after the president of your club is no easy feat, and, admittedly, Flavia Scott ’24 did not quite live up to her predecessor. Comedy is a strange creature, something like an interactive monologue. No matter how good the written material might be, that interaction is crucial to the success of the piece, and it was something that just didn’t seem to be quite there yet for Scott. 

I had been warned about this next performer before I got to the Statler. Holzman had told me that he had no idea what Jack Magee ’22 would say in his routine. In truth, this was the person I was most excited to see, based on that previous statement. He did not disappoint. There was a certain dry wit to his delivery, stage presence and irreverence for subjects that would be considered taboo. Magee danced through topics regarding death, ziplines and his vision for improving gender reveal parties. Although he claimed that it was his first time performing, he moved and spoke like a seasoned vet, and I, for one, cannot wait to see his next outing.

Whereas Magee had a subtly aggressive outlook on humanity, Ithaca College student Cam Trask was more robust and explosive in his critiques of the world. His humor was more sexual, as is to be expected in a collegiate setting, but his act didn’t suffer from it. I will say, however, that his infrequent increases in volume did not elicit their intended response of audience excitement. There was a sort of constant switching between a mild-mannered and a turbulent delivery. I personally didn’t find this particularly engaging, but I am sure that it resonated with others.

I have known the next comedian, Matt Hein ’23, for the past six or so years. I never knew that he was interested in comedy, or really presentations of any kind. I was pleasantly surprised to see a really authentic set from him; nothing in his voice or mannerisms changed when he stood up there. It really just felt like I was listening to him talk. I appreciated his style because it felt more intimate in a way that others didn’t. I might as well have been hearing him tell me about what he did over break. But that ability to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary is something truly special, and I commend him for it.

After Hein’s set came Ithaca College student Stephanie Hawkins, the second performer to begin with a therapy reference. Despite this innocuous start, she spent the rest of her time delivering one solid bit after another. My two favorites were her description of her contributions to public school safety and her comments on patrons at the Starbucks where she worked. Her witty material, paired with her relaxed demeanor on stage, made for one of the more entertaining routines of the night.

The only music major on stage, Jonathan Mong ’25, stepped up with a ukulele in hand and promised a completely unique experience. Using his talents on the small instrument, he poked holes in just about every musical genre imaginable, while keeping rhythm with the songs that he was lampooning. Despite being the youngest performer on stage, Jonathan held his own against his more seasoned companions and provided a sonic set that delivered just the right amount of social commentary without delving into the realm of cringe.

The most relaxed performer of the night was Minki Kim ’22. Kim had a certain confidence that inspired the audience to lend him their ears when discussing social differences, especially regarding his time as an exchange student in London. He was also one of the many comedians that night to discuss his disdain for children. Despite his calm stage presence, he was never boring.

The penultimate comedian, Ithaca College student Kaitlyn Coffey, also doubled as Ithaca College’s final representative. Being the third comedian to begin her routine with a therapy reference, she diverted from the others with interesting observations regarding her school’s lack of diversity. She also brought into question the rationale behind certain words that men have used when they catcall her. Her ability to deliver a punchline was truly exceptional and likely caused the longest period of laughter during the entire show. 

Closing a show is not a task that many people would envy. Fortunately, the final performer of the night, Carlos Pos ’23, was just the right man for the job. Hailing from the Philippines, Carlos provided a voice that was unlike anyone else’s. With an emphasis on history and changing the way that the Philippines is perceived by the rest of the world, Carlos did an excellent job at balancing a crash course on cultural history with a mockery of how outsiders perceive his homeland. 

If it wasn’t already abundantly clear by the preceding 1,300 words, I really enjoyed this outing. I have been a fan of comedy for a long time, but I have never had the chance to see it live. Watching these performers bare their souls in front of me was an experience completely different than just listening to shows in the car with my dad. I apologize to my editors for making them read through this long-winded report, but it was only right that every incredible performer be given the due praise that they deserved. This might have been my first time seeing Pun Intended live, but it certainly won’t be my last.

Tom Sandford is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].