Slate comedy festival is no joke

If there is one thing that keeps receSs going, it’s history and tradition.

For almost 20 years, GW’s only comedy group has delivered sketches, video and improvisation to audiences looking for an easy laugh. The return of Slate: The World College Comedy Festival this weekend marked the return of an old tradition – but also the end of four seniors’ college comedy careers.

“I’ve worked harder to put this festival together than anything else I think I have ever done,” said senior Darren Miller, president of receSs and a producer of the event.

Two months ago, Miller was planning for the final receSs show of the year, when schedulers in the Marvin Center told him that there were two extra days open in Betts Theater. With three nights to do whatever he wanted, Miller decided to reinvent an older tradition.

“We have this history box, in receSs, and it has an old program from the first Slate,” said Miller. “When I found out that we had this opportunity to put on a festival, I felt like we had to bring back that event.”

Miller summoned more than eight comedy groups from around the country to participate in the weekend. From the uber-popular internet video stars Derrick Comedy, to the touring company of the Upright Citizens’ Brigade, to student groups from Georgetown, Penn State and Boston Universities, some of the most talented young comedians around agreed to be a part of the festival.

“This event is honestly about respect,” said Miller. “Our respect for the groups that have influenced us in comedy and our awesome peers in the college comedy circuit who just really produce good work.”

On Thursday, the festival opened its doors with a performance from GW a Capella group The Troubadours, an improvised performance from receSs and work from two troupes at the Washington Improv Theater. Friday brought in performances from college groups and welcomed stand-up and sketch from professionals at Derrick Comedy. Saturday, the culmination shows featured the Brigade’s famous work and the final receSs show of the year. The jokes were filled with everything from sexual banter, to Bible references, to the art of psychiatry – each group invoking laughs and applause from a faithful audience.

“Tonight, well it’s really kind of bittersweet,” said sophomore Kabeer Parwani, a second-year member of the comedy group. Though the festival was a successful and exciting event, Parwani acknowledged that the final night marked the departure of four of his closest friends and colleagues.

Seniors Miller, Kevin Mead, Jen Gilmour, and Travis Helwig were each given some time to perform what would be their last amateur act in the Betts Theater. From making fun of themselves, to making fun of each other, to thanking the people who had influenced their collegiate comedy skills along the way, each student humorously and sentimentally summed up their experience as a member of the comedy troupe.

“This is like the second-to-last scene in the biography of my life,” Mead told the more than 75 people in attendance, including his parents, his girlfriend and the people in comedy who, he said, inspire him in each performance.

DC Pierson, a member of Derrick Comedy and a creator of the internet video hit “Bro Rape,” said he felt lucky to have been invited to the event after meeting members of receSs at various other comedy festivals over the past few years. Pierson, who will be moving to Los Angeles with his group in the coming weeks, said he remembered having his own senior moment just a few years prior.

“When we were all seniors at NYU, we got to have our own little finale, too,” said Pierson. “It’s something really special, and kind of sentimental. I thank the receSs guys for letting us be here to see and be a part of their moment.”

While four members move on, some off to New York to make it in the professional comedy world, and others with little prospect of what to do, Mead said he expects the next generation of receSs stars is sure to carry on a tradition of producing quality comedy.

“I think this, it all comes full circle,” said Miller, acknowledging former members of receSs who were now performing as invited guests to the festival. “It would be cool one day to return to this stage as a professional.”

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