Comedic commentary

Comedic commentary

By Bobby Klucevsek

When comedian Chris Rock drops the “n-bomb” during his stand-up routine, it elicits laughter and applause from audience members. When Virginia Senator George Allen lets a racial slur slip on the campaign trail, he loses his seat in Congress.

This illustrates the stark contrast between what is socially acceptable in comedy versus what is acceptable in other settings. Comedians are able to use sensitive issues to spark laughs and to confront cultural problems. After all, Borat was more than just a traveling Kazakh journalist in search of Pamela Anderson.

In the third annual “Beanpot of Comedy” Friday in Blackman Auditorium, a similar brand of racy and politically incorrect comedy was introduced by Northeastern’s comedy troupe NU ‘ Improv’d, along with Grandma’s Third Leg from Salem State College and Asinine from Boston College. Much of the sold-out show’s humor was laced with sexual innuendo, exaggerated violence and celebrity imitation.

The night’s final performance demonstrated the current attitudes toward comedy through a game called “World’s Worst.” A category was picked at random from audience suggestions, and comedians performed the “world’s worst” version of it.

In “World’s Worst TV Game Show Host,” performers joked about Steve Irwin hosting a show about how many pints of blood it takes to die, as shouts of “too soon” bombarded the stage. In “World’s Worst Reality TV Show,” they performed a version of “World Trade Center Survivor.” Jokes like “World’s Worst Elementary School Teacher” showed an actor pretending to receive oral sex from a girl saying “that doesn’t look like a lollipop.”

The performances ranged from five-person rehearsed sketches to improvised games involving members from all three teams.

While not all the humor carried a social commentary, much of the night’s biggest laughs were elicited by edgy skits ranging from a gangster-like take on the Hardy Boys to a party referee who oversaw male and female dating stereotypes in college culture.

Although some skits were lighter fare, Jessica Colavita of Boston College’s Asinine said comedy allows people to confront society’s problems.

“There’s a danger in saying touchy things, but when something’s painful and they make a joke about it, humor lessens the pain,” she said. “If something hurts, you can make it funny, you can laugh at the hurt. It’s a way of coping.”

Sociology professor Jack Levin said taboo subjects are acceptable in comedy because it gives society the opportunity to hold a mirror to its face.

“There are certain areas of everyday life where these prohibitions do not apply,” he said. “And one of those places is in a comedy club, where the stand-up comedian has the privilege, and maybe the right, to go beyond everyday limits. And that’s what’s so funny. That’s why people get a good laugh. It’s so outrageous that it defies convention and that’s what makes it funny.”

Boos aside, “World’s Worst” is a favorite among many of the performers.

“I really like doing ‘World’s Worst,'” said Tushar Patel, president of NU ‘ Improv’d. “It’s my favorite game, just everything about it, and I love how we do it with all the groups, just because we do separate sets, but then we bring it all together at the end, which I really like. I think inviting the groups here, that’s the point, the point of it is to bring these groups together.”

NU ‘ Improv’d member and two-time “Beanpot of Comedy” performer Sam Solomon said while sometimes jokes can go too far, comedy can be therapeutic when taking on touchy subjects.

“‘World’s Worst’ pushed the envelope a little bit,” she said. “Some people were feeling a little uncomfortable with some Steve Irwin jokes and maybe some Twin Tower jokes, but at some point we have to start to heal, and for some people healing and laughing are the same.”

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