Laughter fills the theatre as students perform in Columbia’s first ever Comedy Cabaret

By Kristen Gesicki, Staff Reporter

Lucas Martinez

The sun must have spent many years studying, it’s got millions of degrees!

*Ba dum tsk*

The jokes at the Comedy Cabaret have been much better than the one above. For comedy writing and performance majors and acting majors, the Cabaret is a place for their talents to shine.

Columbia’s first Comedy Cabaret was showcased in The Sheldon Patinkin Theatre, 72 East 11th Street. Tickets were free and anyone could attend — with more shows scheduled and opportunities to watch this weekend — with proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test required at the door.

The opening weekend of the Comedy Cabaret was Oct. 7-9, with performances following Oct. 14-16, and upcoming shows scheduled from Oct. 21-23.

The shows started with a 20-minute opening act, followed by numerous sketches written and performed by the Comedy Cabaret ensemble cast.

Grace Kessler Overbeke, assistant professor in the Theatre Department and director of the Comedy Cabaret, said the show’s opening act varied per weekend — the opening weekend was improv; the second weekend was a standup; and the final weekend will open with a sketch show.

After each show so far, the cast has asked for the audience to vote on their favorite sketch so the ensemble can switch things up for their next performance.

“The idea of the show is that it’s always changing based on the audiences’ reactions,” Kessler Overbeke said.

Ansley Rowell, a sophomore comedy writing and performance major, is the student director of the Comedy Cabaret.

Rowell said the show was modeled after Second City’s sketch shows — using improv from sketches and the reactions of the audience to modify the script in order for the Comedy Cabaret to improve for each performance

“As comedy majors, I think for a lot of us being on the Second City’s stage is a goal,” Rowell said. “So it’s a great practice to see if we’re capable of this and if it’s something we really do enjoy.”

Thurston Stevenson, a senior comedy writing and performance major and ensemble cast member, said writing sketches and making people laugh was encouraging, especially during his last year.

“I think it’s really cool there’s this opportunity to write and practice what we [comedy majors] are here to do,” Stevenson said. “And I think it’s really important that the student body can come and support what other majors are doing.”

Shelby Steele, a junior comedy writing and performance major, is a devising cast member of the Comedy Cabaret.

Steele said the cast had five rehearsals from when they auditioned for the show Sept. 21 to its opening night Oct. 7. This involved the cast members pitching sketches, teaming up to write and memorize the sketches and changing the show based on audience feedback.

“It’s truly incredible that we did all of that in five days with three-hour rehearsals during that time,” Steele said. “So really in fifteen hours we put together a whole show.”

Jordan Baker, a first-year acting major and an ensemble cast member of the Comedy Cabaret, said having a live audience made the whole process much more enjoyable.

“Especially since it’s a lighthearted comedy sketch show, there’s so much laughter,” Baker said. “It’s really nice to have such a great audience. … You can tell that the audience is really happy that live shows are back, and they’re able to laugh with each other.”

Dayvon Simmons, a first-year comedy writing and performance major and ensemble cast member, said everyone should watch a comedy standup show to brighten their day.

“Comedy is something that everybody needs,” Simmons said. “We have different genders, different races, all coming together from different points of view. We can all come together and make anybody laugh.”