Jason Wu/Sun Senior Editor

SNL's Ego Nwodim performs at the Statler Auditorium on April 27.

April 30, 2023

Thursday Night Live: SNL Performers Entertain Students at Cornell Programming Event

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Normally home to courses for hotel administration majors, on Thursday, April 27, the Alice Statler Auditorium held a different kind of lesson in entertainment, as comedians Ego Nwodim and Molly Kearney of Saturday Night Live shared their wit and humor with around 200 attending Cornell community members. 

The Cornell University Program Board is a student-run organization focused on bringing speakers, comedians, athletes and other public figures to Cornell’s campus. Previously this semester, CUPB facilitated visits from actor and television writer BJ Novak and celebrity chef Claire Saffitz.

Nwodim, who is originally from Maryland, studied biology at the University of Southern California before joining the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2018. Nwodim plays “Lisa from Temecula” as well as a host of other characters on the show.

From the beginning of her set, Nwodim held full command of the stage. She started off by trying to connect with students.  

“Is anyone here a biology major?” Nwodim said, playfully joking with an audience member who raised their hand. “Your friends are probably all studying for finals right now… Why are you here?”

Zoey Arnold ’25, promotions chair of CUPB, noted comedian interaction with the audience as one of the highlights of CUPB shows. 

“It’s really fun to see what people ask… with comedians, sometimes they do crowd work,” Arnold said. “It’s cool to see people get involved and be shouting stuff out or interacting with them.” 

Nwodim bridged topics such as dating, dietary restrictions and race during her thirty minute set, in addition to sharing some of her SNL pitches from the past year with the audience.

“One of them I wanted to do is this sketch where a girl in LA joins the Peace Corps and she thinks it’s a workout class,” Nwodim said. “I also thought about doing this one where this group of friends has an intervention, but it’s sort of like, ‘hey David, we missed you when you were a crackhead, you were more fun.’”

Nwodim ended her set with a series of jokes impersonating Maya Angelou.

Arnold said that Nwodim’s humorous content, and the coincidence of SNL’s break, played a factor in the Board’s selection of the event.

“Melissa [Reifman ’25] is currently [the] selections chair [of CUPB], so she makes all the decisions on which talent we’re bringing,” Arnold said. “We really look for up-and-coming comedians. That’s the talent we try to get. [Nwodim]… was just promoted to Repertory status on SNL, so we thought she would be a good person to bring,” referring to Nwodim’s promotion to the upper-tier of cast members in 2020.

Harry Samuels ’24 attended the event as part of a social event for CUNooz, one of Cornell’s student-run satire newspapers. 

“I haven’t watched a lot of SNL recently, but I was excited to see the performances,” Samuels said. “I thought both performances were really funny and would definitely consider going to more performances by comedians.”

Nwodim’s SNL colleague Kearney opened the show. Kearney is the first non-binary cast member of SNL after joining the show in 2022. 

“I hadn’t read the poster for the event too closely, so I didn’t even realize that Molly Kearney would be performing as well,” Samuels said, “which was a great surprise because I really enjoyed their standup.”

Kearney’s set included material about their experience as a theater major at the University of Dayton, coming out to friends and family, their childhood nickname “Meatbrick” and their constant comparison to their father by others.

Arnold said that the Program Board had hoped for more attendees at the event, but attributed the lower than normal turnout to the timing in the semester as well as the hosting of a performance by Chloe Fineman, another SNL cast member, on campus the week before. 

Samuels said he previously attended comedian and YouTuber Trevor Wallace’s performance on campus, as well as some sketch comedy performances, including from groups such as The Skits and Humor Us

“This event was at a slightly smaller scale than the Trevor Wallace show and felt a little more interactive and personal, which was really nice and improved the whole experience a lot,” Samuels said.

Arnold said CUPB members and volunteers held a meet and greet with Nwodim and Kearney after the show to chat and take photographs with the two comedians.

When asked about the highlight of the show, Arnold referenced the enthusiasm of the audience. 

“It makes me happy to know that we did a good job when everyone’s sitting there laughing and having fun at the event,” Arnold said, citing the event as a highlight during a stressful time of the semester. 

CUPB is hosting one final show of the semester on Monday. Music critic and YouTuber Anthony Fantano of The Needle Drop will be participating in a moderated question and answer session at 6 p.m. in Klarman Auditorium. The event is free to the Cornell community.