If you’ve never tried to tell a joke to a Sanders Classroom-sized group of people, I would highly recommend it.
This past weekend, Vassar’s only all women’s comedy group Indecent Exposure presented: “Rush Weekend—A Gals N’ Pals Stand-Up Show.” Each year this comedy group invites non-members to submit stand-up sets, and from these submissions, the Gals from Indecent Exposure are able to choose Pals to perform alongside them. This year the event spread across two comedy-filled nights.
If you’ve never tried to send a google doc of your own jokes to a talented group of comedians, I would highly recommend it.
First years and seniors alike participated, and many of us pals were completely new to the comedy scene. Yase Smallens ’20 performed as a Pal and shared, “I submitted a set for Gals N’ Pals because a friend in the group told me to give it a shot. I had never done comedy or any performance art before, but I’ve written in a lot of different styles before and decided to give stand-up comedy a shot.”
Smallens was not the only one to succumb to some positive peer pressure. Rachel Elson ’19 also took some advice and inspiration from friends that are involved with comedy groups on campus. This long-time rugby player, first-time Pal explained why she wanted to be a part of Gals N’ Pals in the first place: “I really love telling stories with friends…and I started to realize that comedy in general, and stand-up in particular is a great way to do that. So I figured that this was as good a chance as any to try it out with some really great people.”
After the first group introduction meeting, the rush of being chosen to perform began to wear off and the reality of the situation set in: us Pals had just signed up to perform alongside these talented and experienced women. The next week or so was filled with pained wonderings of “Why did we decide to do this?”
Luckily for us, we were not just thrown to the critical sharks. The members of Indecent Exposure organized multiple workshop sessions where we were able to practice our sets and get feedback from current members as well as our fellow Pals. This process helped to ease our fears right up to the day that we had to perform. Looking back on that blur of a day, Smallens recalled, “I spent the entire day reciting my set over and over again in front of mirrors, house mates and strangers…”
If you’ve never tried to memorize five minutes worth of your own personal stories and jokes for a live performance, I would highly recommend it.
An hour before the performance, Pals were pacing in every available corner of Sanders Classroom. We were nervously using chalkboards, bathroom mirrors and dingy walls as faux audiences. I am almost sure that watching us prepare for the performance would have been a comedy show in itself.
As nervous as we were, it would have been worlds worse if the members of Indecent Exposure hadn’t been so good to us. There was hand-holding, body-hugging and validation-giving, and then there was a performance.
For Smallens, one of the night’s highlights came from the group’s co-president Elizabeth Snyderman’s set. Smallens recounted, “Leading up to the show Snyderman was a great source of motivation and support for the whole group, especially us Pals, but I didn’t actually hear any of her routine until that night. Needless to say, I was laughing the whole time.” She continued by saying, “My favorite part of the night was being able to sit down beside a group of unbelievably talented gals and pals after.”
Performing means different things to different people, but a lot of us find it rewarding and even cathartic. Patrice Scott ’19 is a member of Vassar sketch comedy group Happily Ever Laughter, and when asked why she initially wanted to be a part of the Gals N’ Pals event, she answered, “There’s a voice in every mouth and everyone needs to GET it out! Stand-up feels like screaming into the pillow.” Some of the simplest details were sources of joy for those of us offstage. Scott recalled some high points of one evening saying, “Miranda ate fruits and Gabby had Victorian cufflinks—what can I say? Such yummy chums.”
Preparing for and performing stand up was a learning experience of sorts for all of us, especially those who were new to performing. Elson affirmed this by saying, “I learned a lot about the ‘science’ of storytelling, and what makes a good joke. I’m proud of myself for trying something new and kind of scary!”
After a successful show Smallens decided, “I think I would like to perform again because it made me really happy.” Reflecting on the experience as a whole she continued, “A guy I once backpacked with told me the best kind of happiness is the one you feel after doing something utterly terrifying, the happiness that an action or event is over—stand-up was certainly that for me.”
If you’ve never had the chance to try something that scares you, I would highly recommend it.
Looking back at her first-ever stand-up set, Elson decided, “I think the best parts for me were the moments in my performance where I tried something new and people still laughed. I also loved hearing people respond so well to Yase’s because I really love her set and sense of humor.”
If you’ve never had a conversation with any of these hilarious and compassionate people, I would highly recommend it.