By Javier Burdette
UCI is a tough place to be mid-quarter. Meals go uneaten. Hair gets pulled out. Pillows are screamed into. Countless hours of sleep are forgone. Weeping echos through Aldrich Park as the masses cry themselves to sleep, thoughts of midterms bouncing around in their overworked heads.
What these kids with their bloodshot eyes and caffeine-induced jitters need is a laugh, and that’s exactly what The Coup de Comedy Festival, conveniently held amidst the chaos of midterms, seeks to provide.
The Coup de Comedy festival is a four-day event presented by Improv Revolution at UCI. The festival features comedy in nearly all its forms, from standup, to improvisation, to music. Throughout all four days, an impressive number of workshops are held for aspiring actors interested in improving their comedic chops.
The event as a whole tiptoes the line between festival and symposium; it’s about learning almost as much as it is about laughing, and that’s what makes it unique.
Among the countless improv and standup shows are events like the screening of Izzy Gessell’s “Why Humor is Important” and a conversation with Aretha Sills concerning the origins of improvisation. A whopping 35 events were held in venues all over campus.
Admittedly, not all of these events were marked by mass appeal. In fact, many of them would probably have the average person outside the sphere of Claire Trevor wholly uninterested within a few seconds. However, the fact that these events even exist is what’s important. Just as gamers and slam poets need a place in the UCI community, so do stand-up comedians and improv aficionados.
However, we shouldn’t let the beauty of the nature of the festival obscure the fact that comedy is a genre few have a strong grasp over. Essentially, you shouldn’t go to a performance held in Humanities Hall expecting to see the next Louis CK.
The second day of the festival wrapped up with performances from a few comics, a handful of whom were sufficiently funny. Zoё Moacanin served as hostess over the menagerie of standups, none of whom were white heterosexual males, as she was delighted to point out. While some acts were wholly bland, others, like puppeteer Sarah Oh who charmed the crowd with her “Beanie Babies” likeability, and others still, like Katie Reed, managed to turn their sheer weirdness into side-splitting comedic gold. The best joke of the night was undoubtedly a bit in the final act that involved deaf neighbors, narcotics, and Harry Potter, of all things.
Improv group Sparks to Fire took the stage the next day, in a performance that mashed together stand-up and improvisation. While the acts who performed the night before were hit-or-miss, those who went on Friday evening were definitely mostly miss.
Unfortunately, the stand-ups dove right into crowd work routines almost immediately, resulting in the alienation of a good chunk of the audience. While insulting members of the crowd does have its place in a stand-up routine, there is a point where it becomes uncomfortable. It should make you want to laugh, not want to stand up in defense of the victim.
Next spring midterm season, when the going gets rough, UCI students, beyond the Claire Trevor crowd, should check out the offerings of the Coup de Comedy Festival. It might just give you the little boost you’re craving amid the despair.