By: Cory Berlekamp
A warm Saturday night on Jan. 20 in downtown Findlay invited all types of people to the Marathon Performing Arts Center for the University of Findlay’s 16th Annual Comedy Jam. An eclectic group ranging from students all the way up to the elderly filled the theater. Settling in, the group anticipated a night of laughs driven by three nationally recognized comedians. They were not disappointed.
The warm up comedian and emcee of the night was Alexandra McHale. She has been on The Tonight Show with Jay leno amongst other television appearances. McHale immediately grabbed the attention of the audience by telling them that Ohio was the “nicest state” and continued to poke fun at its’ Midwestern charm. Shortly into her set though, the show almost came to a halt though when a heckler decided to voice his opinion about one of her jokes.
Through what can only be described as a comedic iron fist, McHale handled the tense situation with the intensity of a mother punishing her child. With the audience on her side, she quickly showed the heckler the error of his ways and made sure to mention it for a chuckle between each act break when she came back on stage.
The feature comedian, Mike Paramore was a gentle spoken man with an infectious laugh. He even mentioned how he did not appreciate how women would sometimes refer to him as Pooh Bear. Unlike the darker lighting during the other acts, Paramore’s performance was bright enough to read the program the ushers handed out at the beginning of the show. This was not without reason, his jokes included heavy audience participation which everyone was happy to be a part of.
Paramore’s responses to nervous answers gave the crowd a version of a comedy show they might not have been expecting, but appreciated. It made a theater with 960 seats in it feel like a small night club. In contrast to the heckler that spoke out earlier in the show, his welcoming attitude of awkward conflict and confident answers steered the show all the way to its intermission.
After a solid performance from Paramore and McHale that kept the crowd warm with a consistent amount of laughter, it was time for the Headliner, Pete Lee.
The Wisconsin born comedian has been on Comedy Central Presents and was on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon just last week. Lee, who delivered on all levels, fit right in with McHale’s comment about Midwesterners being the “nicest people ever.”
Coming to the stage, smiling from ear to ear, he grabbed a quick laugh with “It’s great to be in almost Toledo!” and the crowd was in. With a unique but very self-aware outlook, Lee’s punch lines were delivered with the intensity of a carousel ride. His Wisconsin accent made even the more off-color jokes seem light hearted and easy to digest. With less participation from the audience than the previous comedians, Lee had seemed to win the crowd over with his “sensitive” boyish charm.
As the show came to end, the crowd, still chuckling to themselves, made their way to the doors. Not everyone decided to leave right away though, all three comedians stayed for a meet and greet in the lobby. Overall, UF’s annual Comedy Jam was a success.