After an opening performance from Keene State College’s own improv group, “3 Ways Til Sunday”, the Night Owl Cafe (NOC) was treated with stand-up comedy on Saturday, September 10.
Nationally touring comedians Jay Reid and Gibran Saleem graced the stage in front of a relaxed crowd of about 147 students. First, Saleem told some jokes about his name that has caused some awkward encounters with other people. He also talked about Tinder and the art of “cat-fishing” people.
Saleem even did some crowd work, getting audience members involved in the show. After Saleem’s 45 minute performance, it was onto the last act of the evening, Jay Reid. During Reid’s act he talked about a variety of topics that brought the crowd to the point of hysterics.
Reid made jokes about the TV show “Saved by the Bell” cruise ships, flip flops and relationships. With the crowd in stitches, Reid piled it on, talking about his family, social media and the horror movie “Halloween,” which came with a hilarious impression of Michael Myers. During his routine that went over 45 minutes, Reid did some crowd work as well, even more so than Saleem. Reid engaged nearly every person in the audience in comedic conversation, making jokes about ways people were sitting and what they were wearing.
“I liked how he engaged the crowd,” Sholtes said. “He was awesome, I loved his laugh, he was so silly.”
Reid said he learned his ability to energize audiences from the way he was brought up in the stand-up comedy business.
“I started doing stand-up comedy in little venues like this (The NOC),” Reid said. “I had rough crowds at bars with poker machines everywhere. As a comedian, when you have so many different distractions, you have to be quick on your feet. You have to do a lot of improv when you’re doing shows like that and just engage everybody and bring everybody into the whole comedy world. That’s what I try to do every time I go on stage. I try to bring everybody in and have as much fun as possible.”
Reid was booked by After Hours after he gained recognition during a performance at a showcase in Dallas, Texas, where he attracted the attention of a lot of other colleges.
“I enjoyed it,” WKNH Radio host and KSC student, Keith Medlock said. “I usually like coming to the comedy shows. I’m a big fan of stand-up. I like seeing stand-up and I like to laugh. I did enjoy them both. It’s hard for me to say who was funnier. I liked seeing Jay’s impression of flip flops; that was lots of fun. It was a good show.”
Although the NOC is considered a small venue, Reid is no stranger to the big stage. He was the winner of Bill Bellamy’s “Who’s got Jokes?” and is currently touring with him. Reid said he adjusts his routine to the size of the audience he is performing in front of.
“I make adjustments because the audiences are different,” Reid said. “I do colleges, cruise ships, comedy clubs and I also do theatres. It’s a different approach that you take for each room that you’re doing, but the material I use is all the same.
I just say it in different ways to make that audience understand what I’m talking about. Comedy’s all about word play and how you’re able to switch words when you need to in order for a group of people to understand how you’re explaining your jokes. I feel like every comedian needs to be considered a chameleon. You have to be able to adapt to any situation that you’re in. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered that art yet, but I’m trying to master that and I think I did well tonight dealing with the audience, and I’m happy with the show tonight. I’m very happy.”
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Reid. He said coming up in the comedy game is a “grind,” and shared his story with the Equinox about the his worst performance on stage. Reid went to a comedy showcase at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles hosted by Steve Harvey during his second year doing comedy.
“I was two years in the game at the time, so I really don’t know how to deal with the audience and hecklers and stuff like that.”
Reid wore a suit trying to be flashy in the same way Steve Harvey is known for his suits. After being crammed into a small office room with 30 performers and no air conditioning, Reid was finally called on stage. Before Reid could get into his routine, he was greeted with a shower of boos.
Reid said, “There was a guy in the front row with a shirt that said boo. Every time the guy stood up the whole crowd would boo. It sad boo on the front and back of the shirt.”
After being booed off stage, Harvey tried to help him by calming the crowd down and getting him to do one of his bits. After some prying from Harvey, Reid finally told the joke and was booed off stage again.
“I got booed twice in one night,” Reid said.
But Reid responded in a way that would change his career for the better.
“That’s the worst show that I’ve ever done. After that night it was a long drive back home. I promised myself I would do everything that it takes from here on to make sure I don’t ever get booed again and I haven’t been booed since that day, 11 years ago.”
Reid provided advice for any aspiring performers at KSC who wish to try stand-up comedy, and said young comedians have to want to do it for the “love of the craft.”
Reid added that famous comedian J. Anthony Brown once told him, “Do it for the love not for the money because if you do it for the love the money will come.”
Spectators from the comedy show left pleased, hoping for another one to pop up at the NOC soon again.
Sholtes said, “I always come out to support After Hours [Program] because I think it’s a great program. It’s something that I think people would really enjoy and I like supporting and getting people out here and stuff.”
Sholtes added that whoever didn’t make it to the show really missed out and that she will definitely be at the next one.
Nick Tocco can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Corrections made 9/20/16 – Paragraph 2: changed “30 students” to “147 students.” Paragraph 3: changed “headliner” to “last act.” Paragraph 8: changed “Student Activities Council (SAC)” to “After Hours,” and “performed” to “gained recognition during a performance.”*