For the past few years, many students at UCR have united at the Barn for the “Laugh More” event, a night filled with knee-slapping stand-up and delightful improvisation. Even the very first “Laugh More” in 2013 was a success with students, showcasing widely acclaimed comedians such as Dana Eagle (who has appeared on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” and Comedy Central) and Samuel Comroe (who has appeared on Conan and opened for numerous other comedians, such as Joey Medina and Tom Green). Although the night is a big hit every year for students seeking amusement, there is more to “Laugh More” than simply being a night of comedy.
“Laugh More” is hosted by the Well, an organization on campus that, as stated on its website, aims to maintain a “safe, supportive, and connected campus environment” through the promotion of “healthy minds, bodies, and communities.” As an opening to the show, two hosts from the Well briefly introduced the organization and its purpose for creating the show.
“Laughter is a great stress reliever,” one host said. “There are other important things to being a student besides studying,” she continued, signifying the importance behind the maintenance of mental health and how it can easily be overlooked in front of piles of textbooks and written reports. “Simply laughing can help people be less stressed.”
Before the performances began, there were already around 40 to 50 people gathered within the Barn and outside on the patio, pleasantly conversing with one another and indulging in the aromatic comfort food served at the Barn, with cheeseburgers, buffalo wings and onion rings being popular orders. The slightly country yet modern Barn was cozy enough to have hosted events ranging from intimate wedding receptions to full-length concerts. “Laugh More” was roughly a mix of these two diverse types of events, for while it certainly didn’t house a small audience, there was plenty of personal interaction between the performers and the audience.
Immediately after the introduction, the passionate student organization Improv Anonymous ran and leapt on to the stage, opening the show (literally) with a bang.
Improv Anonymous performed games that involved all of the audience’s participation, which was a clever way to grab everyone’s attention from the very start of the show. The first game involved having one volunteer sit in the middle of the stage and the audience pitching ideas of random objects. The rule of the game was for each member of the improv group to go up to the volunteer and state “My love for you is like,” followed by the audience-chosen household object and a snide diss (with some actually being adorably sweet). Some of the best ones were, “My love for you is like a truck; I only need you when I need to dump you,” and “My love for you is like a cat; I’m allergic.”
The other two games involved slips of paper containing random quotes that audience members were asked to write before the show and the re-enactment of various scenes in different movie genre styles.
With the audience already fully engaged within the first 10 minutes of the show, the Improv Anonymous performance passed a weighty baton to the main performers of the show, Connor McSpadden and Kristee Ono, who effortlessly carried it from start to finish.
Connor McSpadden, a local comedian who graduated from Mt. San Antonio College and is a Barn comedy favorite, dived right into his personal life, comically remarking “I live with my parents in this house that they own.” He then smoothly linked this detail about his home life to his romantic life, warning about taking a girl out on a bowling date because “no one’s fucking after bowling.” He also brought up the idea of creating a Charity for Bros, addressing the spreading epidemic of “Bros” in Riverside who drive “big trucks and drink Monster Muscle.”
McSpadden was followed by the genuine, honest Kristee Ono. The quirky comedian possessed an ability to make audience members feel as though she was their best friend, reminiscing on the most wild, embarrassing moments they have ever had together. In one instance, she recalled getting into fights with people on Halloween because she was drunk and decided to accuse people of “not being the real thing” (in their costumes). Starbucks was also a frequently mentioned topic, having elicited bitterness in her after a cashier gave her attitude when she ordered a caramel mocha latte. “I’m a Peet’s girl anyways; I love the diarrhea it gives me afterwards.”
Something interesting about the comedic performances was that the issue of mental health frequently recurred. For instance, McSpadden expressed feelings of depression that stemmed from low self-esteem, painful break-ups and other personal situations, indicating that these emotions have affected him at multiple points throughout his life. To maintain his light, buoyant atmosphere, however, McSpadden masterfully combatted these negative memories with humor. For instance, when talking about low self-esteem, he said that at least people with low self-esteem are less apt to feel sad because “at least they think they deserve it.” Ono talked about dealing with depression and drug addiction, claiming that she was still living in her mother’s house, and her mother also had a drug addiction and was living in her own mother’s (Ono’s grandmother’s) house.
These two comedians went on a stage to make people enjoy themselves and laugh away their stress, yet at the same time, just being heard and recognized healed them as well. Ono also related to this alleviating form of expression, saying after the show that “It can be pretty intense talking about my darker side, but it’s definitely cathartic.” With a lineup of hilarious, amiable comedians and an embracing atmosphere, the Well accomplished another memorable night of comedy and successfully reminded students that there is more power to laughter than we think.