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Wednesday, August 29,2012

Laugh track

Lansing student standup comedians polish their acts

by Rich Tupica

The notorious “Bill Hicks Hates Hecklers” video on YouTube is as good a crash course in standup comedy etiquette as you can get. In the grainy reel from the ‘80s, a drunken female heckler shouts, “You suck!” at Hicks, unleashing a string of primal screams from the comedian in which he calls her everything from a “drunk bitch” to an “idiot piece of shit.” Lesson: do not call Bill Hicks names.  

Dealing with hecklers comes along with the territory, and local comedian Dan Currie, a recent Lansing Community College graduate, said Mac’s Monday Comedy Night is an ideal showcase for rookie comedians. Currie hosts the weekly show and hopes a few aspiring comedians are among the new college students rolling into East Lansing.  

“It’s about conquering fear,” Currie said. “If you’ve been thinking about doing it for a long time, the first step is just to do it. And whether you get laughs or not, you did it. Conquering that fear is the best feeling in the world when you’re on stage.”

Currie, 22, and many of the other emerging local funnymen also take the stage occasionally at Connxtions Comedy Club in Lansing, but treasure Mac’s crowd because they’re more forgiving. It allows them to be more experimental and try out fresh material. 

“We love Mac’s because it’s a place where we can do whatever we want,” Currie said. “It’s all us. There are no bookers there, there’s no pressure. It’s a lot of fun and a great place for comics to come and hang out. We see each other once a week. You know every Monday you’re going to see your buddies, work on new material, and have a lot of fun.”

And he’s in good company. Nicholas Dressel, 26, a theater major at Michigan State University, recently won the Funniest Mouth of the South down in Chattanooga, Tenn., taking home a $1,000 cash prize. He said aside from Mac’s, there are plenty of springboards for hopeful comedians, including the annual Last Spartan Standing competition that is reserved just for MSU students. MSU also offers an accredited theater class that is specifically designed for potential standups looking for serious direction. Of course, Dressel is taking it. 

“It’s taught by Rob Roznowski, who won the Michigan Professor of the Year award this year," Dressel said. “It’s an acting and comedy class culminating in a final where you do a set at Connxtions.” 

As with many professions in the entertainment industry, standup isn’t a huge moneymaker for those just starting, but Dressel said it’s not about that. It’s about the feeling of being on the stage.

“There is an addictive feeling to controlling a crowd that way,” Dressel said. “If you’re really rocking a room, you can almost feel like a puppet master in a sense. It’s like, ‘You will laugh … now.’ There’s something insanely addictive about that high. I don’t have a drug problem, but I can see why other people do. It’s amazing.”


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