I want to preface this by saying that Student University Programers (SUP) deserve major props for putting this night together. They spared no effort in attracting two huge names to campus.
As for the show itself, I’ll start with the positives: Marlon Wayans was hilarious. The lesser-known son of the legendary comedy family gave an energetic performance with plenty of thoughtful life lessons sprinkled in with relatable, and oftentimes physical comedy.
I didn’t care for his semi-frequent use of the f-slur, but it never felt egregious or insulting. And his long ruminations on his views regarding domestic violence felt like a strange road to go down, but it was surprisingly tasteful. The Wayans gave the men in the audience a clear, moral direction in how to conduct ourselves around women.
And I can’t neglect to mention the “host,” whom the main act lovingly referred to simply as “DC.” He was fairly standard as far as stand up comedians go, but he still brought us much needed relief in between the opener and the main act.
This brings me to what we need to address: “Saturday Night Live” comedian Alex Moffat’s opening set was the strangest performance and the worst stand-up comedy I’ve ever seen, in person or otherwise.
There’s quite a bit to unpack here, and I’m going to try to paint a picture as vivid as possible.
Moffat did the first few minutes of the show as a character, which amounted to him speaking German in a cartoonish accent. This alter ego babbled on, speaking different random German words, and ended on impressions of Sammy Davis Jr. and Shaquille O’Neal.
Ultimately, Moffat was doing an impression of a person doing an impression of someone else, and the entire crowd was murmuring to each other about how confused they were at what was going on. You could barely make out what he was saying.
My friend and I both had dumbfounded looks on our faces and we even had to explain to the people sitting next to us that Moffat isn’t German, and that this was the joke.
After about five minutes of this (which felt like five hours), Moffat switched to his normal speaking voice, apologized for starting so poorly, and proceeded to ramble about nothing for 15 minutes. It felt like he was setting up jokes with no intention of coming up with a punchline.
During this rant, he did the classic angrily-tell-someone-to-leave bit. It was actually pretty funny. He also mispronounced the name of the venue, the Esbjornson gym, on purpose, and it got a chuckle out of us.
Okay, maybe he’s getting better.
Until he decided to do both of those jokes two more times each. He repeated the same exact joke three times. Not once, but twice.
I’ve never seen anything like it. I was awestruck.
At one point he had set up a joke, then “put a pin” in it and told an aimless college story that had nothing to do with what he was talking about. Then he finished the original joke to no avail, because we had all immediately forgotten what was the set up.
Early on, he attempted crowdwork. He jokingly insulted a member of the audience and apologized to them immediately after, as if he had actually committed some sort of transgression by telling jokes as a professional comedian.
I can not overstate just how little the crowd reacted to what he was doing. The room was dead silent for a majority of the act. It was like watching someone who had not only never done stand up before, but had never even watched anyone else do it.
At several moments, he resorted to making fun of Rowan University. Now, of course, I don’t mind this in principle. Hannibal Buress executed it well when he came to campus two years ago, but the main difference between Moffat’s and Buress’ approaches was that Buress’ jokes were actually funny.
Moffat sarcastically referred to us as “the Princeton of South Jersey,” and addressed members of the crowd as “cooking majors or something” in a clearly demeaning tone. It felt like a five year-old was trying to insult us, and it just came across as lame more than anything else.
At this point, the most pressing question in my mind was whether this was some grand experiment in anti-comedy and if he was bombing on purpose. I ruled out this possibility when he moved on to his final bit.
My friend and I let out deep, soulful groans as Moffat approached a keyboard set up to his left. He was going to attempt musical comedy.
He referred to it as a “sing-along” and asked the crowd for a song suggestion. He picked “Piano Man” by Billy Joel and started smashing random notes and chords and half-heartedly sang the first verse. Then he skipped the rest of the song and walked out after introducing DC for his second brief appearance. He landed the entire show with a thud, and fled the scene of the crime.
While this was an unbelievably unfunny experience, it was more than made up for by the other performers. At the end of the day, even the best of us fall short from time to time, and we don’t know what might have gone on behind the scenes. I love these big shows the SUP does, seeing as I enjoy the world of comedy so much, and am glad to see so many other profs do too.
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