Campus Comedy Showcase brings new talent to campus comedy scene

By Alice Smelyansky

Every Tuesday at 9 p.m., a lights shine bright and the sound of laughter echoes long after a punch line when comedians step up onto the stage at The Canopy Club for the Campus Comedy Showcase, which was established this semester to promote stand-up comedy at the University. 

This year, Jesse Tuttle, the man who runs C-U Comedy, is creating even more involvement opportunities through the Campus Comedy Showcase, giving those who sign up in advance an opportunity to do some stand-up. 

“If you’re ever thinking about doing it, the best thing to do is just sign up and do it,” Tuttle said. “That way, you can at least say you did it. Even if it doesn’t go well, what’s the worst that can happen?”

And if that doesn’t get rid of the pre-performance jitters, the $2 Long Island Iced Teas help, too, Tuttle said.

Tuttle hosts about half of the shows, but, once in while, he brings in a host so he can do a set himself. Though his main goal at the moment is to expand the C-U comedy scene, he also consistently performs at comedy clubs outside of the community. 

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Esteban Gast, graduate student in political science, met Tuttle after he won a stand-up competition at the Illini Union his sophomore year. The win made him take comedy more seriously, and ever since, he’s been an active member in comedy, performing for registered student organizations, fraternities, sororities, in comedy groups and at bars in downtown Champaign. 

“This sounds so cheesy, but I truly want the audience to have a good time,” Gast said. “I think that’s always been more important, which is bad because, sometimes, I just focus on writing the best jokes I can. But sometimes I just go, ‘Man if the audience is laughing, if they’re giggling, that’s awesome.’”

His dream is to continue working in comedy, and as Gast graduates in May, he wants to do as much stand-up as possible before then, he said. Currently, he performs five days out of the week — Monday at the Illini Union, Tuesday at The Canopy Club, Wednesday at Memphis on Main, Thursday at the Clark Bar, and Friday at the weekly “Illini Showcase with Esteban Gast.” 

Gast also helped Molly Rohan, senior in LAS, become involved with the Campus Comedy Showcase after she expressed some interest in trying stand-up this semester. She took an improvisation class while abroad in New Zealand last spring and performed in skits for her sorority’s recruitment but explored stand-up even more with the Campus Comedy Showcase.  

“I think everybody should try it at least once,” Rohan said.“It’s just such a rush being up there. It’s really fun, and, afterward, you feel kind of like a little celeb.”

While on stage, Rohan likes to talk about funny experiences, such as drunken encounters and weird things people say to her. At her first show, Rohan was the only female performer, and the host introduced her to the crowd with this knowledge. Though she was nervous to go up, Rohan used the fact to make jokes, and the crowd loved it. Her first experience at the Campus Comedy Showcase is still her favorite, she said.   

“I’ve sat in the audience, and I’ve been a performer, and it’s been so fun,” she said. “It’s just like those kind of hidden nights. You could go to the bars, or you could have a different change of pace.”

Alice can be reached at [email protected].