There’s a lot of pressure for students to go out on weekends and make the most of their educational experience outside of the classroom. Not every career can be learned in a classroom and college offers a lot of easy opportunities to participate in a variety of clubs. Sometimes this weekend social obligation, school responsibilities and pressure to get involved can be overwhelming.
UO Stand-Up Society’s open mic night offers students a fun, free and casual weekend event to attend, while giving students interested in comedy a platform to meet and perform.
These open mics happen every Thursday at 9 p.m. in the back room of the EMU’s Falling Sky Pizzeria. They are free to attend and open to the public, and complimentary pizza is provided.
Cailin Wolff, who runs the UO Stand-Up Society, has been a member of the club for four years.
“I think comedy makes life a lot easier because you’re able to laugh at these crazy things going on, either in the world or just in your own life,” Wolff said.
For Wolff, stand-up comedy sets itself apart from other forms of comedy because of its simplicity.
“It’s just you and a microphone and that’s all you need – and an audience I suppose,” Wolff said. “It’s just as simple as comedy can get.”
These stand-up nights typically run under two hours and include 8-12 participants. Each performer is allowed a five-minute set. Anybody can sign up, and inexperienced comedians are encouraged.
“It seems like every week we have somebody doing stand-up for the first time ever,” Wolff said. “It’s a really easy, safe place to start doing comedy. You have people who are really supportive in an environment that feels very casual … versus going downtown where you don’t know people and the crowds may be rougher.”
Wolff’s advice for new comics is to focus on writing jokes for themselves rather than what might please an audience. She tells aspiring comics to be authentic, to write their stories down, then re-read and re-work them. According to Wolff, a basic rule of comedy is to always punch up and never punch down, meaning target more powerful figures than yourself, and avoid hitting the downtrodden.
“There is a crazy phenomenon where everybody’s first set is amazing,” Wolff said. “The first set, you can have so much fun with it. You get to really play around with who you want to be on stage.”
For people who are nervous about performing, Wolff suggests going alone the first time because, without friends in the crowd, even if you bomb, there’s nothing to lose.
The UO Stand-Up Society meets once a week and has about 15 members. According to Wolff, members conduct a writing exercise every meeting. They’re all given the same broad prompt and then examine the different directions each comedian took. Members also share new jokes and critique each other’s stand-up routines from the open mics.
Wolff says the Society can give people who are interested in any form of comedy a platform to network and meet fellow comedians. Society members have collaborated on sketches, podcasts and articles. Joe Glasgow, co-founder of the Society, recently released his debut comedy album, The Early Stuff.
In past years, the Society hosted open mic nights at The Buzz in the EMU, but after The Buzz closed, the Society temporarily moved its open mic nights to the Wild Duck Cafe. The Wild Duck proved a hard venue to regularly schedule time slots at. According to Wolff, the off-campus location was less convenient for students and resulted in a lower turnout. The need to travel off-campus also made the event seem more formal and students often felt pressure to find a companion.
Falling Sky’s centralized location in the EMU has increased audience turnout and given the open mic nights a more casual feel. People also tend to feel more comfortable attending alone because the venue is on campus.
“Falling Sky is also one of the only venues where people can drink, but you don’t have to be 21 to be there, so it is very inclusive that way,” Wolff said.
Anyone interested in joining the UO Stand-Up Society can contact Wolff through the group’s public facebook page, or speak with her in person at one of the open mic nights at Falling Sky Pizzeria. Everyone is welcome to attend for free pizza and nearly two hours of local stand-up comedy.