Comedians and improv group split sides at Laugh Off Comedy Competition

Host Evan Newlin (right) announces Sean O'Malley (left) as second place and Elijah Brown (center) as the winner. -Staff Photo/Scott Buzby

Wednesday night was the sixth Rowan Laugh Off Comedy Competition, where 13 student comedians competed for the grand prize of $300 and an opportunity to open for the improv comedy group, the Second Place Champions, on Feb. 2.

The event was hosted by Student University Programming (SUP) and co-sponsored by the Improfs, Rowan’s improv comedy troupe. The host for the evening was Improfs President Evan Newlin. Judges of the competition included the coordinator of Leadership Rowan and 2007 Laugh Off champion Charles Kuski, graduate coordinator for special events and service areas Carly Samuels and the director of live events for SUP Dan Reeve. Participants were judged on the content of their jokes, their personality, originality and crowd reaction.

“Basically, whoever has the most friends here wins,” Newlin joked. 

Luke Wister, a senior physics major, was an early crowd favorite. He focused on his biggest pet-peeve, the Prof mascot.

“It’s not a big, mean, scary owl,” he said. “It’s more like an owl solving engineering problems.”

Several acts later came a set by senior radio, television and film major Ellen Wesley, who performed at the 2017 homecoming lip-sync competition under the name Princess Ellen. She took first prize at the lip-sync battle but failed to place at Laugh Off. However, that did not stop her from having a good time. Wesley took to the stage with her lip-syncing abilities and her take on topics such as self-esteem, fashion and funerals.

“About the audience, there were definitely some jokes that I felt should have gotten a few more laughs than they actually did,” Wesley said. “I definitely felt like I did better last year.”

Next came an intermission act by the Improfs, who invented various “first date” situations. Newlin directed the group of four comedians to improvise the scenarios as cowboys on a nature documentary as well as a children’s show. Though they were not competing, the Improfs were well received by the crowd.

After the Improfs came senior radio, television and film major Ethan Gross, whose dry sense of humor didn’t win him any cash, but seemed to go over very well with the crowd.

“Some of those guys were really killing it,” Gross said about the competition. “[It’s] neck and neck this time. I felt a little intimidated having to be the one to follow [the Improfs]. They were getting laughs and they’re a whole group so they can bounce off each other and I’ve just gotta go up there by myself.” 

Senior radio, television and film major Nate Jones used his confident persona and quick wit to tell jokes about how he dresses, Applebee’s and his new life being sober.

“The audience wasn’t bad honestly,” Jones said. “I’ve been doing this three years and I think that was the stiffest I think they’ve been towards anybody. It was definitely the most subjective crowd.”

While the judges deliberated the winners, the Improfs took to the stage and did a “Whose Line is it Anyway” style sketch. They took audience suggestions for “The worst ____ in the world.” They responded to and acted out the responses. This performance drew the greatest audience feedback of the night.

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The third-prize winner was Luke Wister, who took home $100 in Rowan Bucks.

Second-prize and $200 in Rowan Bucks went to sophomore psychology major Sean O’Malley.

“I did this competition last year and I’m surprised to be back honestly because I went a little over my time limit,” O’Malley said. “I was thinking someone was getting fired for letting me back up here. They weren’t rude enough to get me off stage. I saw the hand signals, they shut the mic off, they shut the lights off, I kept going. It wasn’t until they got the giant cartoon hook [that] I eventually stopped.”

Finally, junior radio, television and film major Elijah Brown took home the grand prize of $300 in Rowan bucks. Brown delighted the audience by talking about his experiences on Tinder.

“You women have it easy,” Brown said. “I’m just swiping right like it’s fruit ninja and nothing ever happens.”

Although only three comedians placed, all performers contributed to a night of hilarity and comedic insights.

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