The crowd erupted in laughter as Nektarios Kasamias — whose parents immigrated from Greece — regaled them with tales of white friends who wished they had “more ethnicity.”
“[They’re like,] ‘I’m just plain old regular normal American,’” he said. “Normal American? Let’s not go throwing the word normal around here.”
Along with fellow Pitt students Tyler Bobik and Evan Lewis, Kasamias took to the mic to perform stand-up comedy in front of an audience of about 15 people Wednesday night at Nordy’s Place in the William Pitt Union. The event was all three comics’ first times performing stand-up.
Kasamias, a first-year urban studies major, opened the show by performing the set he wrote just two hours prior.
Kasamias’ material provided an introduction to himself — poking fun at the difficulty people often have with pronouncing his last name and mentioning that he found his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, on a list of “Worst Places in the World to Live.”
“It was right below Siberia,” he said. “Siberia deserves better than this, let’s not compare it to Youngstown.”
Kasamias said his high school experience on the speech and debate team allowed him to maintain a relaxed presence on stage during his first comedy performance.
“The difference with stand-up is you have to make yourself very personable, and kind of write yourself into a character,” Kasamias said.
Bobik, a senior computer science major, took the approach of self-deprecation. Describing his formerly bearded self as looking like a “murder hobo,” Bobik entertained the crowd with a couple of humiliating stories.
The culmination of these tales was a firsthand account of handling the call of nature while on a date at Point State Park — where a restroom was nowhere to be found. The next day, Bobik arrived at work just in time to overhear a conversation between coworkers who had also been at the Point the previous day.
“They were like, ‘Yeah, they had to turn the fountain off for some reason,’” he said. “‘They think there was a sewage leak by the pump house.’”
Lewis viewed this performance as an opportunity to get started in the stand-up comedy game. After hearing about the open mic, the first-year political science and communication major prepared his routine for almost a month.
Lewis’ act covered a multitude of topics, from his experiences on the Grindr dating app to his “racist” dog.
“He actually bit a friend of mine that came over for break,” he said. “The only Asian guy who stayed with us — everybody else was white — and my dog decided to single him out.”
Lewis, who closed out the show with his set, said that although he had been writing his material prior to the open mic, the performance came naturally once he got on stage.
“I was pretty inspired. When I went up there, I didn’t have any notes or anything like that,” Lewis said, “I just touched on the topics that I wrote about and put a few jokes in there, and it just sort of happened.”
Sophomore psychology major James Kim hosted and organized the event, hoping to encourage new and inexperienced comics at Pitt to try out their material. Kim said he has tried out a few open mics back home in New York City as well as in Pittsburgh but wanted to create a less nerve-wracking space where college students specifically could perform.
“Open mics are for testing out material,” Kim said. “It’s for rough drafts, it’s for trying things out. Ninety percent of what I write is trash, but I have to test it out.”
Kim said he recalled one particular open mic in New York, during which a 29-year-old comic, who had been performing for just a few months, told Kim that he first knew he wanted to do stand-up when he was 19.
“He waited 10 years, just having this dream inside of him,” Kim said. “Imagine psyching yourself out for 10 years. That’s horrible.”
At most open mics, Kim said the audience will quickly catch on to the inexperienced performers, deserting the venue and leaving behind a group of comics who are free to bounce any material off each other. He organized the stand-up open mic at Pitt in the hopes that it will foster a better community among students who are just venturing into the realm of comedy.
“If I could just get people who want to do stand-up to just try it, that would be good enough for me,” Kim said.