Carnival comedians score big laughs in tent

Hannibal Buress (credit: Maryyann Landlord/Comics Editor) Hannibal Buress (credit: Maryyann Landlord/Comics Editor)

“This is what Google Glass is made for!” said stand-up comedian, actor, and Spring Carnival Comedy Show headliner Hannibal Buress. And he was right: The Spring Carnival Comedy Show with comedians Tig Notaro and Buress was the best I’ve seen during my four years here, full of potential runaway trains, a ballerina rap, and a certain turkey leg.

Both of the performers are highly-praised stand-up comedians on the cusp of national fame, well-suited for the 100th Spring Carnival’s annual Comedy Show.

Notaro has been performing comedy for 17 years (having appeared on NPR’s This American Life and Conan), is a writer for Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer, and most notably gained critical acclaim for her 2013 Grammy-nominated stand-up album Live, in which she recounted her deeply personal and recent ordeals with breast cancer, undergoing a double mastectomy, and the death of her mother.

Buress is a stand-up comedian who has worked as a writer for Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, and released his hour-long Comedy Central special Live from Chicago on March 29.

After a short delay and an introduction from AB Comedy Chairs sophomore history major Ramya Chinta and sophomore materials science and engineering major Mariana Rodriguez, Notaro took to the stage. She was self-deprecating, whether it came to her own physical appearance or the venue she found herself in. “I’ve been doing stand-up for the past 17 years,” Notaro said, “and walking into a carnival, I feel blessed.” One of the funniest moments was when she recounted trying to impress a classmate with her musical tastes, specifically the introduction to the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, and realizing that the introductory chorus was a little lackluster.

Notaro was able to improvise well, both with the Carnegie Mellon environment and the unfortunate crowd interruptions that occurred. While her material on impressions seemed to drag on just a bit too long, her stage presence and good rapport with the crowd made her worthy of being the headliner in her own right.

After Notaro’s set concluded with a standing ovation — despite any annunciation confusion — Buress began with a highly Carnegie Mellon-centric opening. Discussing “Call Me Maybe” playing from a fraternity and how an audience member in the front row was recording the show with Google Glass, Buress was able to personalize and improvise his set with hilarious results.

Buress asked the audience how many people saw his recent Comedy Central special. After hearing the response, he said that it was a good amount of people, but not good enough to not use jokes from the special in his current performance. Any comedy fan who watches Buress thus may have recognized his stories about opening for Tracy Morgan and wanting Will Smith to die before him. However, this comment wasn’t a strike against Buress; it was more of a testament to having incredibly timely, relevant, and entertaining comedians for the Spring Carnival Comedy Show.

While some of the material was familiar, he entertained with new jokes and stories as well. “I’ve taken Adderall just to clean up my apartment, but I never finish,” Buress said. “I get distracted by something from my past, like my high school yearbook.” One of the most interesting aspects of the show was his use of music and prerecorded stand-up bits, triggered by Buress’s DJ and man with the best job in the house Tony Trimm. Talking about how ridiculous rap lyrics can be (“A crib in every state? Both Dakotas?”) and how fraternity hazing must occur at Carnegie Mellon (“You need to build a robot. With mustard. And a coat hanger.”), Buress had the packed Midway Tent consistently amused.

This year’s Spring Carnival Comedy Show was the funniest one I’ve been to since I enrolled here in fall 2010. Notaro and Buress’s solid material, ability to improvise, and crowd engagement made for one of the best events at Carnival this year.