In the middle of his comedy act, Pitt alum Jesse Irwin asked the audience if anyone had attended Latin religious school.
“I went to Latin religious school, and I’m going to sing a quick song for you from Latin religious school,” Irwin said. “If you recognize the song, please sing along.”
Irwin proceeded to sing four Latin verses, mixing in random phrases such as “OJ did it” and “Bill Cosby’s trial.”
Irwin was just one of the performers at the Collegiates and Comedians event on Wednesday night. Collegiates and Comedians is a monthly event held in Nordy’s Place in the William Pitt Union and sponsored by Pitt’s very own late night show, “Pitt Tonight.” The event is a stand-up comedy showcase that features a collection of student acts performing alongside professional acts from around Pittsburgh and beyond.
Wednesday’s show starred Norlex Belma, a New York-based comedian who got his start in Pittsburgh and Senneca Stone from Helium Comedy Club in Buffalo, New York. The show also featured Pitt senior computer engineering student Phil Forrence — the host of Collegiates and Comedians as well as the event’s opener.
“I think [tonight’s show] was a little bit of a risk. Jesse got up there and did some crazy stuff — said some things that were like bonkers and the audience was like ‘whoa,’” Forrence said. “But everyone was like ‘we’re here to have fun, so let’s have fun’ … It was perfect.”
Irwin, like many of the performers, joked about sensitive subject matter, performing a song he wrote about molestation and incest. Garrett Maosch, a 2011 graduate of Point Park University, said he thought the comedy was funny because it wasn’t politically correct.
“The more offensive, the funnier, in my opinion,” Maosch said.
Irwin left “Pitt Tonight” last April, after hosting the show for two years. After his departure from the show, he immediately took on stand-up comedy as his next project. He noted that although stand-up and hosting are entirely different beasts, his experience on stage has definitely made the transition easier — along with the fact that the Pittsburgh comedy scene is very inviting to newcomers.
“Pittsburgh’s support system for comedy is not what anyone would think. Yes, it is an individual effort, but you have a lot of people right there to lift you up,” Irwin said.
The inviting nature of the Pittsburgh comedy scene is part of the reason Collegiates and Comedians exists in the first place. Forrence, who started hosting this event in September of last year, said he is able to get a lot of the performers to do these sets at Nordy’s Place because of the friendships he has made.
“We perform with these guys all the time,” Forrence said. “They are amazing stand-ups, but they are just our friends.”
Stone praised Forrence’s hosting ability and also commented on their friendship and why — as someone who is beyond his college years — he returns to Pitt to do these shows.
“I’ve seen Phil since he started doing comedy, we started around the same time,” Stone said. “Whenever I have any extra time I am more than happy to come down whenever he asks.”
Because Stone is based in the Pittsburgh comedy scene, he does not find himself on college campuses much and describes the experience as a little more of a challenge.
“Sometimes you get nervous that references might not hit with a younger audience,” Stone said. “But the idea is that you have to make everyone laugh whether they be a college student all the way up to an old person who is a [veteran of foreign wars]. Create material that transcends that, funny is funny, make it so everyone can laugh.”
Among those laughing in the audience was Clare Donaher, who was invited on stage during the show by Irwin. While Donaher — a first-year student planning to study engineering — watches a lot of comedy and considers herself a big fan of “Pitt Tonight,” Collegiates and Comedians was her first experience watching live stand-up.
“It was definitely a religious experience to be pulled on stage by the former host [of Pitt Tonight],” Donaher said. “10 out of 10 would recommend.”
The show closed with the headline performer Norlex Belma. An alumni of Carnegie Mellon, Belma connected with the audience and received ample applause for his material on sexual adventures in Tower C, having a 21st birthday during midterms and a story of a sexual encounter that he prefers to refer to as his “Sweet Caroline experience.”
Forrence commented on how proud he was of everyone involved for putting something like Collegiates and Comedians together.
“After doing a show like this you kind of say ‘its been a good day’ and then you sit back and smile,” Forrence said.