Podculture: Student comedians flex their funny bones at “New Shack Laugh Track”

Wilson Chapman, Arts and Entertainment Editor

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WILSON CHAPMAN: The following podcast contains explicit language and sexual content.

WILSON CHAPMAN: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Wilson Chapman, and this is Podculture, a podcast covering arts and entertainment on Northwestern’s campus. This week, Vertigo Productions hosted “A New Shack Laughtrack” to give a space for student stand-up comedians to test out their material.

ELISE HAUSMAN: So, finding love on this campus has been a doozy. It has been real hard. My parents met in college, so I was pretty sure that every dance-floor makeout that I came across was going to raise my two to four kids, take the puppy to kindergarten, all that, but it has not worked out like that. I did not realize that people don’t really date anymore. I feel like more people just participate in hookup culture. Am I right? Has anyone else experienced that?

CROWD: Yes!

WILSON CHAPMAN: This is Communication junior Elise Hausman, and she’s a student stand-up.

ELISE HAUSMAN: Hookup culture is when, instead of going out to coffee or dinner, that kind of thing, you go to someone’s dorm or apartment, you pop on a TV show, and the night ends with a romantic knee touch or anal beads, and nowhere in between.

ELISE HAUSMAN: So, I’m a very new standup. It’s still very scary to me. I just started really this year. I’ve always loved attention, so that helps. This year, I took a class at Second City to try and get into it and understand the mechanics better. And it was really fun. I really liked it. So, I was like ‘I’m just going to keep trying this and see if I can get better.’

WILSON CHAPMAN: Hausman said she was drawn to stand-up because it feels less high stakes than sketch comedy groups on campus like The Blackout or NSTV.

ELISE HAUSMAN: I feel like it’s hard, especially on this campus, to break into the comedy scene. With stand-up, you can control it. You can do it when you want to. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in front of everybody you know all the time. You can go to bars in Chicago and have it be just strangers who never have to see you again if you weren’t funny. I try and write about a lot of different stuff. I just try to talk about myself and how crazy my life is and then try and relate it to other things. I’m tempted to always do a lot about hookup culture because I’m constantly thinking about that because it’s so prevalent.

WILSON CHAPMAN: Do you think writing about your life helps you work through things?

ELISE HAUSMAN: Well, I go to therapy to do that mostly. I think it does in a way just because it helps me see the humor in things. So, even if I’m in a shitty situation, I’m like, ‘well, you know, it’s funny for these reasons.’ Which is maybe a bad thing to do, I should face my problems, but I won’t.

WILSON CHAPMAN: Before Hausman brings her work to the stage, she asks her friends what bits in her set work best.

ELISE HAUSMAN: My favorite thing so far about standup, besides performing it, is that I work on it with my roommates a lot. So, I’ll write stuff down and do it for them, and they’ll be like ‘that’s not funny.’ And I’ll be like okay, cool, and I’ll redo it. It’s nice bonding.

ELISE HAUSMAN: I do remember my first hookup in college, though. I was a freshman. It was fall quarter. I was at this theater party and I saw this guy from across the room. And when I found out he was straight. Dripping wet. I mean dripping wet. And so we ended up going back to my dorm room. We started making out. We ended up having sex, and like the feminist icon he is, he made sure neither of us came. And after we both didn’t come at the exact same time, he ended up getting really vulnerable with me, in a way that I think is really hard for guys to do these days. He told me that when he was a senior in high school, he won an award for the state of South Dakota, for his role as the Cat in the Hat in “Seussical the Musical.” And I was a bit embarrassed because if I knew I was going to be with somebody famous, I would have at least made arrangements so we could have done it in a house, or with a mouse. We could have done it on a boat, or with a goat. Or maybe with a fox as he entered my box. Or with a mole as he slid into my hole. Or maybe on a train as my vag made it rain. I would have at least shaved my pubic hair into a little top hat so I could have been his cat in the hat. Oh the places we could have gone.

BILLY O’HANDLEY: Hey, thanks for the introduction. I’m Billy by the way. I wrote all of these jokes on paper because I thought I’d forget them all but f–k it. I’m going off script.

WILSON CHAPMAN: This is Communication sophomore Billy O’Handley, another student stand-up performing at “A New Shack Laugh Track.”

BILLY O’HANDLEY: I’m a good boyfriend for people who want a dog. I’m like really fun and playful, but it’s hard to have a deeper connection with me. And I’ll give you unconditional love and support, but I’m not the best at treating serious situations with any sort of gravitas. And I’ll lick peanut butter off your genitals. And I have fleas. And if I see a dead squirrel on the ground I’ll just f–king tear it apart. And I just love pooping on the ground and humping stranger’s leg. And my penis is out and erect all the time. And I love giving kisses and I love a good treat. And they chopped my balls off when I was a kid and they didn’t even ask me about it. And I love wearing a collar and leash and I obey every command. And I’m always hungry. I chase after small animals. I’m colorblind. I have so many more of these. That was the first joke.

BILLY O’HANDLEY: I performed standup for the first time during CUP, Chicago Undergraduate Program. There was this arts night and there was open mic. And I was the token comedy kid in CUP. I did this five-minute set that I really worked hard on, and it killed. It went really well. So, my first experience was killing and I was like ‘oh, I’m really good at stand-up. I’m going to go to an open-mic in Chicago and I’m going to do a set. And it’s going to go really well.’ And it did not. The first time I went to an open-mic, I bombed so badly. I didn’t get a single laugh. My entire bit was about goats who want to have sex, but they had to follow the biblical guidelines. It was like a weird random law in Leviticus that I wrote five minutes on, about goat fucking. It bombed. It really bombed.

I recovered from it by pretending that I didn’t care and saying ‘oh I didn’t like stand-up anyway.’ And then I was like, I actually really do like this. I’m going to furiously write jokes for an entire break, and then this set will go better. I feel like bombing is good because it’s like ‘I have to kick up my game seven notches.’ Ever since then, the other few open mics I’ve done in Chicago have gone well, so it was a good learning experience in the end.

I’ve just really loved comedy, specifically comedy writing, for a long time. And I feel like stand-up is the way to get immediate feedback the best. When you write something and people do it, they’re the ones who get the praise. So, stand up is a way to be both the writer and the performer and get that immediate serotonin from shit you wrote in your room.

CHAPMAN: What topics are you most interested in exploring through standup?

BILLY O’HANDLEY: Umm, assplay?

No, but actually, most of my set is jokes rather than stories. It’s not a lot about me. It’s just things I was like ‘oh, this is a joke. It has a setup and a punchline and I’ll just tell it.’ I feel very removed from the person who goes up there and does stand up. It’s a real “Fight Club” situation. I’ve never seen that movie, but someone ruined it for me.

BILLY O’HANDLEY: You know old people just cannot figure out how to text, right? Yeah, well, my grandmother sent me a text earlier today. This is like, straight up the funniest typo I’ve ever seen in my life. Here it is. “Dear Billy: this may be difficult for you to hear, but I habe terminal stage four cancer. I don’t have long to live. I want to see you one more time before I pass.” Habe? Grandma, you silly goose. The B and V keys aren’t even near one another. Unbelievable.

Anyway, that joke is not true. My grandma died over the summer. No, she did. She would have really loved that. I actually genuinely think she would have loved that joke. She’s one of the reasons I do comedy, because she’s really funny. This is actually not planned. This is, I guess, a eulogy now. The last time I saw her it was at my high school graduation and I didn’t know she was going to be there. And she was very sickly and she came all the way out to f–king the middle of nowhere New Hampshire. And she saw my entire graduation. She saw this big moment in my life. And I sat down next to her and I said ‘Grandma, I hope you enjoyed that.’ And then she went over to me and she whispered in my ear, ‘why are there women here?’ And I was like, ‘are you are you joking, or?’ and then she winked at me. And it was. Oh man, it was just really nice. Anyway, that’s my grandma.

WILSON CHAPMAN: From the Daily Northwestern, I’m Wilson Chapman. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next Monday for another episode of Podculture.

WILSON CHAPMAN: This episode was reported and produced by me, Wilson Chapman. It was edited by Kalen Luciano and Heena Srivastava. The Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Northwestern is Troy Closson.

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