On Friday, April 11 and Saturday, April 12, Vassar hosted its first College Comedy Festival, also known as ComFest. The two-day event featured 24 acts, including both college and professional groups.
“It’s an idea that’s been floating around since before my time at this school, but it just never happened,” said President of both HEL and Vassar Improv Nick Pearl ’14. “This idea came back up at other college comedy festivals, too, and it’s always a lot of fun and also because we have seven comedy groups on campus—it just makes sense to have a festival.”
Pearl, who has been involved with comedy his entire time at Vassar, volunteered to lead the planning an execution of the event. “I was the most free, and I had a lot of ideas for it that I wanted to implement—and almost all of them got implemented,” he explained.
“I heard about the festival about two weeks before the show when Nick pitched the idea to us. It was introduced as the biggest college comedy festival in the world, so I got pretty excited,” said member of HEL Kyle Whelan ‘16.
ComFest turned out to be the overall largest comedy festival in terms of amateur performances. Pearl said, “It accidentally became the largest amateur comedy festival in the world—the largest festival with the largest number of unpaid performers…they did it out of the love of doing comedy.”
Pearl elaborated, saying, “We got a bunch of no’s but we also got a lot of yes’s. It wasn’t my intention to make it the biggest, it just happened that way.”
Whelan was at first hesitant with the amount of acts. “I honestly held modest expectations,” he said. “Organizing large events with that many guests can be very difficult, and there was no guarantee that the groups we invited would bring their best.”
There were some setbacks that occurred the second night, Saturday, however. Some audio and video wouldn’t play during groups’ sets, and one group’s car broke down on the way to Vassar. Ultimately, the group wasn’t able to perform in the festival.
After ComFest concluded, however, Whelan was happy with how the event unfolded. “I was impressed by how the show went. I was especially impressed by the semi-pro acts that we brought in,” he affirmed.
Pearl echoed Whelan’s enthusiasm, “I’m so thrilled, I’m beyond ecstatic. It all ended up working out in the end. The most important thing is that everyone that attended and everyone that performed had a really fun time.”
Every comedy group from Vassar performed at ComFest, including Vassar’s only all-female comedy troupe, Indecent Exposure, on Saturday night. Caitlan Moore ’16, a member of the troupe, said, “I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had never been to a college comedy festival before and I was excited to see what it would be like.”
Moore also shared the excitement about the event, saying, “I had a great time. It was amazing to meet so many people from different schools and it was interesting to see what they all brought to the table.”
Another member of Indecent Exposure, however, hoped for more interactions with groups from other colleges—and for more sketch comedy as opposed to improv. “I expected there to be more opportunities for the different comedy groups to socialize and network with each other,” said Elizabeth Snyderman ’17.
She continued, “I certainly didn’t expect there to be as many improv groups as there were, but I think that’s less a reflection of this event and more a reflection on the nature of college comedy. I think there are just a lot more improv groups than sketch or stand-up groups.”
Despite this, Snyderman enjoyed doing her part. “The performance was really fun. It gave me a chance to revisit and rework a sketch I had written for our last sketch show, and to perform it for a different audience,” she said. “It’s really great as a comedian to know for certain that your audience is laughing because they honestly think you’re funny, and not just because they’re your friends.”
“I just want to thank everyone who came to support it—everyone who comes to comedy shows at Vassar, period,” Pearl said about ComFest. He discussed his role in the campus comedy community, saying, “It’s just my life at this school, it’s what I’ve done for the last four years and I wouldn’t do it if people didn’t come and see and love watching it. All of us that do comedy do it…because we love doing it and we love entertaining people and making people laugh.”
He hopes that ComFest continues after he graduates. “That’s my intention. It’s a tongue-in-cheek joke that it says ‘first annual’ on the poster, but it’s legitimate to me. I’m going come back to and probably perform.”
While Snyderman had a good experience at ComFest, she admits that it was not perfect. One fault she saw was in the lack of diversity of the festival’s offerings. “There are definitely some improvements I would like to make in the future: I would like to have panels and workshops during the day, and change how the actual performances are scheduled,” she said.
Like the others, though, she does hope ComFest will become an actual annual event—and that the joke on the poster will not continue to be a joke. “I would love for ComFest to be an annual event. I think this event has a lot of potential and this was a good start. I can’t wait to grow it into something even better in future years,” she said.