Sit & Spin Stand-Up sets out to prove third time’s the charm

Olivia Bobrowsky

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As Communication sophomore Aaron Eisenberg flew home from school, he jotted down the surprising mix of products he found in SkyMall shopping magazine.

“I just don’t understand who’s going to buy all this and who’s going to buy this at 30,000 feet,” he said. “Who’s going to buy a 30-foot tall crossword puzzle and a two-in-one doggy ramp and foot massage kit?”

Other SkyMall readers may ask similar questions, but Eisenberg, an aspiring comic and the host of Sit & Spin Stand-Up 3, took that material and turned it into a joke he could perform.

Eisenberg and nine other Northwestern stand-up comedians will perform their own jokes during Sit & Spin Stand-Up 3, a Sit & Spin production. The show opens at Blu Sushi Lounge on Friday and will return to campus for a show in Wallis Theater, located in the Theatre and Interpretation Center, on Saturday.

Co-Director Dan Siegel said this year’s performance will surpass previous Sit & Spin Stand-Up shows, primarily due to the strength of the comics.

“The third in a trilogy is always known as the difficult one,” the Communication junior said. “Look at ‘The Godfather,’ ‘The Terminator,’ ‘Spider-Man,’ – when has there ever been a good third sequel? But I think our little Northwestern stand-up show is going to defy that rule of three.”

About 40 students auditioned for eight open spots, Siegel said. Competition was so steep, he said he thought if he tried out this year with his material from last year, he would have been rejected.

When Sit & Spin Stand-Up debuted two years ago, the show was evenly split between traditional stand-up and variety acts, Siegel said. This year, only two acts aren’t traditional – Communication junior Evan Twohy will incorporate cartooning into his act, and Communication juniors Pat Bishop and Chris Poole are a musical comedy duo.

No matter their form, all of the acts have been well-rehearsed, said Rebecca Stevens, the executive director of Sit & Spin, who originally created the stand-up event.

“They’ve been workshopping and performing,” the Communication senior said. “This is the end to a whole quarter of work.”

It takes a lot of brainstorming and creativity to think of jokes, Poole said. The songs he and Bishop sing are more advanced than they were in last year’s show, when they focused more on the lyrics and the jokes. But he said he still remembered one song from last year fondly.

“Dad, I remember when you used to drink,” Poole said, reciting the lyrics. “Since you’ve stopped drinking, we’ve grown apart. I remember the days when you were too drunk to know what a car was, but you still drove us to school, 30 miles and back. It wasn’t always the right school, and it wasn’t always a school day, but you still drove us.”

But thinking of jokes doesn’t always come easily, he said.

“I’ve been in a lot of funny plays, and I’m in an improv group. I’m pretty funny,” said Sarah Grace Welbourn, a Communication senior who is doing stand-up in the show for the first time. “But it’s actually really hard because you’re writing this stuff in your bedroom, and you’re cracking up, and then you stand up and say it in front of everyone and you realize it’s not so good.”

Welbourn said she completely rewrote her set six times since she started working on it a few months ago. But she said the work is all worth it because Sit & Spin Stand-Up provides a constructive, friendly environment that is rarely found elsewhere.

“In the real world of stand-up … you would like to see other people bomb because it makes your set look better,” Eisenberg said. “There is nothing greater than seeing someone with a truly great set, then seeing someone with the most miserable material you’ve ever seen.”

This attitude prevails at Chicago open-mikes, where the audience is mostly comprised of fellow comedians waiting their turns, he said.

“(Sit & Spin Stand-Up) is one of the only opportunities for stand-up to perform for an audience that will come in droves and actively listen,” Eisenberg said. “There’s no bigger rush than the one you’re going to feel performing in front of 100 of your peers.”

In previous years, Cafe Ambrosia held Sit & Spin Stand-Up, but the cafe recently went out of business.

“We really miss Ambrosia,” Communication senior Isabelle Esposito said. “I’m going to be interested to see how (the show at) Wallis Theater goes because it seats more people, but it won’t feel as intimate.”

Even so, Siegel is confident the show will retain its energy.

“If you come to this show and you don’t laugh at least five, maybe 20 times,” he said, “I’ll probably give you your money back.”