It was pouring rain during the first indoor CU Broad Comedy gathering since the pandemic, but it felt nice and cozy inside the Rose Bowl Tavern. Between the deep belly-laughs, the cold drinks, the excellent service of the Rose Bowl staff, and the presence of one abnormally large squash…it felt almost magical.
Oh damn, there I go again feeling sentimental for the returning comfort of being out in public again and being surrounded by other humans. Thanks, science!
Every third Thursday* of the month at the Rose Bowl, the hardworking, and seriously funny, group behind CU Broad Comedy will be hosting and providing a space that is diversifying the local comedy scene.
The monthly open mic rules state, “We do not care about risqué language or taboo topics, but we don’t allow racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist humor.” It may seem like a simple request, but the balance of political correctness and humor is a tricky one, especially during a time of increased anxieties and rising social tensions. Simply turn on the news or log onto Twitter and you can see why. The words you use are important.
All too often people think being an a**hole is funny and comedy is thought to be this space with no rules. The mission of the CU Broad Comedy is to prove that it is possible to be funny without being offensive, and the stage is open to anyone who has ever felt uncomfortable at a standup open mic night.
The club was founded by Stephanie Brown in 2016, and is currently run by Lisa Graff, Andrew Schiver, Gretchen Conlin, and Michelle Lore.* It was inspired by a comedy course designed by Chicago comedian Cameron Esposito. According to the CU Broad Comedy Facebook page, the events were originally created to bring more women into the Champaign-Urbana comedy scene, as a reaction to the #MeToo movement, an effort to practice empathy and solidarity through strength in numbers.
In true Champaign-Urbana fashion, Brown made it into her PhD dissertation — wishing to learn why stand-up comedy is more male-dominated than other forms of comedy. Not only was she able to share and write about the sexism she was facing head-on, but she was including the experiences of other Illinois-area female comics as well.
The organizers shared that they do allow white men to occasionally take the stage, but only after they are seriously vetted and made to explicitly understand the rules.
When “filth positive” musical comic Rachel stepped on stage with tambourines and other various instruments, I will admit, I started to sweat nervously. My idea of musical comedy is plagued by Bill Cosby on drums and Ricky Gervaris and “Danny Tanner” on guitar. She was nothing like those dudes. Intelligent, sharp, and witty with her lyrical rewrites.
Next up was a comic named Emily. She shared her wild prom weekend experiences. Surprisingly, none of these incidents were fueled by alcohol and other illicit substances, but sheer misfortune.
One comic came all the way from Indiana to take the mic at the Rose Bowl. On-stage, in her introduction, Kristen shared that she felt the comedy clubs in her area tolerate inappropriate and offensive material. She expressed how appreciative she was for CU Broad Comedy and their supporters. Kristen was hysterical. As an audience member, I am so glad that she came out and traveled all this way to participate in the open mic.
Next up, comic Farah brought on-stage a very large box. Before the show, people inquired about what was underneath the suspicious cardboard box, but she revealed nothing until she was onstage. Turns out it was a 19 pound squash that Farah herself had grown in her garden. Her set focused on the large vegetable, explaining that she was going to enter it into the Champaign County Fair under the ‘large vegetable’ category.
Co-producer Lisa Graff then took the stage and pondered the history of dick pics. She also shared how she is “horny for sleep,” a completely relatable topic.
Last, but not least, co-producer Michelle graced the stage and discussed yoga stereotypes and had an impressive collection of puns.
If you’ve always toyed around with the thought of performing standup or comedy writing, the CU Broad Comedy team hosts writing workshops that assist you in writing routines and can help you prepare for performing on-stage in-front of a live audience. Host and co-producer Andrew Schiver said that he, “Loves the community. There’s a great group of people supportive of us.”
If you have any interest in joining or attending a CU Broad Comedy show, please follow them on Instagram and Facebook and keep updated with their events. For more information, email [email protected].
* Editor’s Note: There were a couple of minor changes made to these portions of the article after we published it, correcting Tuesday to Thursday, and updating names of current and former producers of the club.