Comedians at the 5th Stand-up Showdown are ready to make some people laugh


Claire Barnett

The Slant’s Standup Showdown is held in Sarratt Cinema on Friday, November 3, 2017.

Avery Muir, Life Editor

This Saturday, Oct. 27 at 8 p.m., The Slant’s Stand-up Showdown will once again create a space for talented student comics to crack some jokes, share some stories and simply make some people giggle. Seven students—Barton Christmas, Bryan Hollis, Nathan Iyer, Charles Kotrba, Taylor Matalon, Kamala Micaela Varma and Mark Weinstein—will join hosts Tarin Denney and Katie Means for some friendly competition. The stakes are high: the performer who wins the most audience votes will receive tickets to and a performance slot at Third Coast Comedy Club.

While a night of laughter may be the perfect way for audience members to take the edge off scholastic stress, the show also provides a comfortable environment for both veteran and first-time stand-up comedians to gain experience and test out their writing chops.

Christmas, a previous Stand-up Showdown champion, has appreciated having the chance to partake in Vanderbilt and Nashville’s growing comedy scene.

“I had done theater before, so I was used to being in front of people, but I had never been up there saying what I want to say for the explicit purpose of  ‘I need you to laugh as much as possible,’” Christmas said.

Stand-up Showdown is far from the only comedic opportunity on campus, but it is, as per its name, the only real stand-up show. Means, the Editor-in-Chief of The Slant, has been performing in or organizing the show since its conception two years ago. This is the 5th Stand-up Showdown, and throughout the different iterations of the show and recognition of some of The Slant’s alumni successes, she has seen a shift in Vanderbilt’s comedy culture.

“I think the people who are interested in [comedy] already are more inclined to take it seriously,” Means said.  “I think there’s a growing sense that this is actually something that some people are cut out to do and can make happen as a career through hard work.”

Rising stars like Zhubin Parang (‘01), who was a writer for The Hustler and The Slant long before he became head writer and producer on The Daily Show, and Lauren Mandel (‘15), who moved on from her roles on The Slant and Tongue ‘N Cheek and became writer’s assistant at Saturday Night Live, have played a big role in inspiring an increasingly dedicated comedy community. Means said that this community support has been an essential component to building up the idea of comedy as a potential career path.

“Being able to rationalize wanting to be a comedian is hard because you’re like, ‘I’m going to make zero money and also this is terrifying. I could do consulting and make like 75K a year right out of school. I could be doing that but nope, I want to do comedy instead,’” Means said.

That’s not to say that everyone in the show is wanting to pursue comedy professionally; many are performing just for the fun of it. Weinstein had been a long time fan of stand-up but hadn’t really considered trying it until the chance to be in the first Stand-up Showdown arose two years ago. After being in four shows and gearing up for his fifth, he said that if you’re someone who is at all curious about stand-up, it’s worth a try.

“It’s a big adrenaline rush,” Weinstein said.“You get really nervous and you go up there and then all of the sudden, you get that one joke in and you feel really good. You’re like, ‘Oh man, they’re laughing at what that I said. That’s super cool.’”

Whether you’re just in the mood to laugh at jokes that are sure to kill or support your friends, there are few better ways to spend a Saturday night than in a room rolling with laughter. Tickets are $5 and available at Sarratt Box Office.

“This is an awesome opportunity for the Vandy community as a whole to come out and see some of the cool things that their peers are doing as well as the fact that, wow, these kids are actually really funny and go somewhere with this,” Means said.  “I just think everyone should come for the laughs.