Comedy show fuses two different styles

Josh Rabinowitz charmed first-years with his self-deprecating approach to comedy. 
 (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Contributing Editor) Josh Rabinowitz charmed first-years with his self-deprecating approach to comedy. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Contributing Editor) Kevin Barnett addressed issues of racism and homophobia during his sketch. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Contributing Editor) Kevin Barnett addressed issues of racism and homophobia during his sketch. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Contributing Editor)

This year’s Orientation comedy show, presented by AB Comedy last Friday, featured two different styles of comedy by two accomplished comedians.

The first half of the show featured Josh Rabinowitz. Rabinowitz’s career in stand-up comedy began in Philadelphia while he was attending the University of Pennsylvania; he now lives in New York City. Since then he has been named one of Comedy Central’s 2011 Comics to Watch, and has performed in various comedy festivals.

Rabinowitz’s awkwardness and shortcomings drove his comedy. He found humor in the sad mediocrity of his existence and in his friends’ often trivial problems, spiced with occasional forays into absurd topics. Rabinowitz was much like a college-age Louis C.K., especially when he opened up about his flaws and insecurities.

Rabinowitz led with a story about his own college orientation, in which he was constantly one-upped by everyone in his group during an icebreaker. Rabinowitz then delved further into his personal failings, recounting how he forced a scientist into an awkward conversation during which he mentioned that he had gone to McDonald’s. This statement prompted the scientist to respond, “Did you get food there?”

He talked about how his hairy chest leads girls who take off his shirt to look betrayed: “I have the face of a 14-year-old and the body of a 58-year-old. I’m like a collage of the least sexy moments in a man’s life.”

Rabinowitz also mused on the concept of “coolness”: He recalled what was considered cool in elementary school, where Lunchables instantly made you friends and Capri Sun was the vodka of the playground.

Other highlights of his act included stories of a friend who humped a microwaved sandwich bag, of generational differences in dating culture, and of men’s sexual preferences.

Rabinowitz ended his performance with an epic tale of how he prank called his alcoholic hockey-player friend and meowed at him while on the toilet, blaming the act on another friend of his. After three painstaking months of keeping this up, he was discovered because he forgot to use a fake name for the Gmail account from which he had sent the prank email.

The second half of the show featured Kevin Barnett, another New York City comic. Like Rabinowitz, Barnett has appeared in various comedy festivals and films, as well as on Comedy Central, MTV, and
CollegeHumor.com. He also co-hosts a podcast and created a viral video sensation called “Homo Thugs.”

Barnett’s style of comedy had more bravado than Rabinowitz’s; his humor was more about his wins than his losses. Some of his humor revolved around racism and the African-American experience. His comedy had a faster pace, and consisted of a few long narratives interspersed with one-liners that segued into one another.

Barnett began with a story from his college years, when his friends slipped ecstasy into his drink despite his objections. “What kind of a person crumbles drugs into another person’s drink? A good friend, that’s who!” Barnett exclaimed, recounting how he had a wonderful night after taking the drugs.

Barnett then went on to topics such as free time, the misuse of slang, and the stupidity of children — including stories about stupid kids he had overheard on a train, the joys of farting in a little girl’s face, and the satisfaction of insulting 10-year-olds on Xbox Live.

Barnett’s jokes about racism included a story about how, while shopping for costumes for a costume party, he wanted to buy a wolverine costume that unfortunately had fake claws with white knuckles. He talked about his dream of running through a meadow with long flowing hair “like a white person.”

Barnett also talked about “the n-word” and its power to make things more serious when added to the end of a sentence. At one point, Barnett asked a white member of the audience to use the word in a sentence, which she did with a great deal of hesitation.

Racist or homophobic friends comprised another common theme in Barnett’s comedy. The highlight of Barnett’s performance was his account of one his pranks, which left his homophobic friend Brandon believing he (Brandon) had performed a sexual act on a man.

Barnett also discussed his romantic life: “Girls think that I’m a weirdo creep. I just think it’s more entertaining to creep them out and scare them than to have sex with them.” He ended his act with a description of his ridiculous OkCupid online dating profile.

At the end of the show, the audience seemed to favor Rabinowitz’s misadventures over Barnett’s comedy. “We thought it was really funny,” said first-year saxophone performance major Laurel Beatty, who came to the show with first-year mechanical engineering major Hope Dohner. “I especially liked the first one [Rabinowitz].”

“My favorite story was the ‘meow’ one,” Dohner added, referring to Rabinowitz’s last story.

Some people seemed uncomfortable with a few of Barnett’s race-based jokes. “The first guy [Rabinowitz] was really good. The second guy’s jokes seemed a bit racist,” said first-year Bachelor of Humanities and Arts student Marianthie Wank.

Regardless of who was the better comic, the show was very much a success, providing a number of light-hearted laughs after the intensity of House Wars.