Six student comedians featured in upcoming Theatre Department comedy show

The show, titled ‘just for fun!’ will go live April 3 on the University of Iowa Theatre Arts Department YouTube channel.


Tate Hildyard

A cast sheet for the University of Iowa Theatre Department’s Just For Fun Comedy show is seen on Wednesday, March 31st, 2021.

Tatiana Plowman, Arts Reporter

Watching comedians like Kate McKinnon, John Mulaney and Carol Burnett inspired theater arts senior Olivia Williams to enroll in a stand-up comedy practicum with Theatre Department Lecturer Megan Gogerty during the fall 2019 semester. There, she met five other student comedians who will now be featured in her own comedy upcoming show at the Theatre Department, titled “just for fun!”

“As cheesy as it sounds, I think comedy found me,” Williams said.

Editor’s note: Olivia Williams is a former Daily Iowan reporter.

Williams initially wrote a dramatic play to be performed this season, but after all the negativity that came with the pandemic, she decided to take a more lighthearted route. Her idea will come to life on April 3 on the UI Theatre Arts YouTube channel as she and five other UI student comedians perform their own, original stand-up sets.

“A lot of people have gone through extremely tough times and simply need a pick-me-up,” Williams said.

Each of the comedians in the show will perform their own five-to-eight-minute-long set. Since Williams took on a director role, she had the ability to work with each comedian on their set. Williams helped each comedian identify which jokes were landing, and which ones need improvement within their delivery. She also worked with the tech team to ensure that cues happened smoothly, and each performer could be clearly heard.

“Working with my friends has been a joy, as everyone is super flexible and willing to work with all my crazy suggestions,” Williams said.

Senior theatre arts major Brett Stone, one of the featured comedians, said that before the COVID-19 pandemic, they performed comedy sets at many different places, including Secret Stand-Up, a monthly comedy show in Iowa City.

“Since I was young, I’ve always made the people around me laugh,” Stone said. “Now, as I’m older and exploring more about comedy, a lot of my jokes are deeply personal. They come from a truthful place that hopefully everyone can relate to.”

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The show was pre-recorded without an audience because of the pandemic. Instead of a traditional audience, the comedy troupe and crew took on the role of the audience, spreading six feet apart in the auditorium to support one another from their distanced seats.  But the comedians were not without a challenge.

“Without a live audience, recording was a bit challenging because as comedians we pause for laughter and feed off of their energy,” Stone said. “I just tried to be as present as possible, adding in new punchlines and sharing the jokes as if it was the first time I ever had.”

Sophomore theatre arts major Tyler Salow has helped behind the scenes with the lighting design for the show. Last semester, he did light design for workshop production Bigfoot Takes a Walk and will also have his work seen in the upcoming show, Outside.

For traditional stand-up comedy shows, the comedian is usually illuminated by a solo spotlight or simple lighting. Within this show, Salow has explored how different colors and lighting intensities can add a new layer to the performance, bringing each comedian’s personality to the stage through light.

“I’ve worked with each individual comedian to create the best angles of lighting for their set,” Salow said. “Most of my work has been trying to make the filmed version appear as close to the in-person version as I can with expressive lights.”

For Williams, in a world where much remains uncertain and dark, a little bit of laughter can go a long way.  In her director’s note, she shares how the show is a gift not only for the audience, but also for herself.

“Even though the world is on fire, there are still ways to have a good laugh,” she said.