Comedy Central’s “Comedy Central on Campus” tour hasn’t had the best track record at UCR. Last year the performances in question were held as an addendum to the Midnight Madness event, leaving only a tired and played-out audience to appreciate comedic sets that were aimed at what seemed to be the wrong audience. It comes as no surprise that — being held as its own independent event — the comedians were much better received by an audience desiring exactly the entertainment the tour offered.
This year’s set at the Barn was oddly reminiscent of the previous appearance of Comedy Central at UCR, beginning with comedian Thomas Dale. As with last year, Dale’s performance was initially met with tepidity from the audience, who either didn’t manage to relate to his jokes about being a gay Long Islander in California, or else did not find the relations funny enough to raise more than a lukewarm chuckle. Certain jokes were blatantly recycled from his prior material, telling the audience about his lust for straight men, and looking out in the audience to find all the “cute straight boys” who came to the performance. It was after this moment, however, that Dale’s set became more effectively received. He picked a member from the front row of the audience, choosing to verbally molest him in such a way that any member of the crowd was hard-pressed not to enjoy the tinge of sadism. Dale finished his initial set much stronger than it began and set a precedent of audience interaction that the following comedians made perfect use of.
After Dale came Alice Wetterlund, whose performance was nothing of a novelty to UCR. It wasn’t surprising how much it bore a resemblance to Dale’s earlier set. Wetterlund began by informing the crowd about her experiences growing up in the South, with jokes that were either hit or miss. As her performance went on, she made note of the fact that the audience was hard to read, prompting her to ask what the audience would like to hear her talk about. The topic settled on relationships, and Wetterlund quickly earned the laughs by directing her attention to the same member of the crowd that Dale had made note of previously, all the while making jokes about porn, the merits of talking instead of texting and men having calluses on both hands instead of one. (Get it? I laughed.) Having got the majority onto her side, Wetterlund left the stage and Dale returned for another few minutes of mixed reception before bringing out the show’s headliner.
Rounding out the show was Ron Funches, whose performance was surprisingly measured and instantly won over the crowd in a way that the previous comedians had failed to. Only moments after taking the stage, Funches looked at the same member of the audience that had been joke fodder all night and pointed out to him that he “could see why Dale finds you so cute.” Right from the start, Funches’ set seemed to resonate more with everybody present, each joke only tangentially related to the last, and quite often pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable (which is honestly funnier than being well-behaved). His jokes covered the topics of: Being prepared if a terrorist demands you have gay sex to save your mom, watching naked Mexican toddlers dance, hating that his son is a snitch, wanting the audience to picture him naked on a fancy pillow and much more aside.
Overall, “Comedy Central on Campus” was hit-or-miss. While the first two sets weren’t the most fruitful to everybody watching, it came about more as a mismatching of topics and listeners. Comprised of students hoping to escape from their jobs, clubs and midterm-induced nervous breakdowns, the audience was unlikely to enjoy the jokes that hit too close to home — whether they came at the end of a pep rally or not. It was fortunate that Funches’ set came at the end, giving the irreverent touch of nonsense that would be great to hear more of, should the tour come around again next year.