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Hilarity in the Heymann

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Hilarity in the Heymann

Nikki Moriello / Visual Editor

Nikki Moriello / Visual Editor

Nikki Moriello / Visual Editor

Nikki Moriello / Visual Editor

By Nick Mullen / Staff Writer

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Pittsburgh natives and visitors alike hammed out at the Pittsburgh Comedy Festival over the weekend, bringing extra comic relief to Student Orientation week.

The second annual Pittsburgh Comedy Festival took place on campus last Thursday, Aug. 27 through Saturday, Aug. 29. Pitt’s Henry Heymann Theatre, home to the Pitt Musical Theatre Club and Pittsburgh improv group Ruckus, housed notable stand-up comedians such as Todd Glass and Aubrey Plaza, as well as smaller, homegrown improv troupes like Pittsburgh’s own Friendly Neighborhood Improv and Primary Colours, from Dallas.

In the spirit of being on a college campus, attendees paid to see and learn about comedy through the festival’s didactic workshops designed to sharpen improv and general comedy writing skills.

Jenna Simmons, the festival’s Events Director and a Pitt Theatre Arts alum, said the Comedy Festival, put on by Comedy Arts Pittsburgh (CAP), exists to showcase Pittsburgh’s large and growing comedy scene. According to the festival’s website, its goal is to both engage and expand Pittsburgh’s comedy fan base.

“With three improv theatres and 12 weekly stand-up open mics in the city, there is a large audience for comedy already,” Simmons said. “The goal of the festival is to combine interests, show those fans acts that they haven’t gone to see, as well as appeal to a first time comedygoer to show them all the magic that Pittsburgh has to offer.”

Plaza, famous for her role as the sarcastic intern April Ludgate on “Parks and Recreation,” performed with her improv comedy troupe Bombardo Friday night. The all-female comedy group formed in New York City in 2006, and has gained popularity for its “weird” and “psychedelic” style, according to the group’s website.

Glass, known for his stand-up and work on “Last Comic Standing” and “Tosh.0,” spewed satire of the banality of growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs in a contrastingly explosive and passionate fashion.

The festival also included a diverse lineup of improv groups from all across the country, including one from Dallas called Primary Colours, who coach Tyler Via said loved the atmosphere of  Henry Heymann Theater.

“The stage is very intimate,” Via said. “There’s something about this old university. It evokes something.”

Primary Colours comedian Ashley Bright said improv comedy is growing ­— not only in popularity, but artistically as well. The festival’s debut last year was “the first of its kind in Western Pennsylvania” according to its website.

“There’s a push [for improv comedians] to make it further,” Bright said. “More people are seeing improv as the way to get to the next level, but it’s also becoming its own unique artistic destination.”

Bright also performed Saturday night with the Pittsburgh Comedy Festival All-Stars, a medley of the festival’s best talent that hailed from both Pittsburgh and other cities. As the festival’s finale, the audience-chosen theme of tornadoes led to a two-part act: first was simply conversations about tornadoes. Then, a fast-paced whirlwind of skits followed that included recurring themes of penises (including a trio of brothers named Scrotum, Balls and Dick), God as a whiny best friend and an artist of post-tornado debris.

Pittsburgh native Jeff Konkle also performed stand-up Saturday night following the Pittsburgh comedian/magician and Robert Morris University graduate Lee Terbosic. Konkle harped on Pittsburgh sports and their fans — specifically “that one dude at every game who’s always telling people to ‘get up!’ and ‘let’s go!’” Terbosic’s act emphasized magic but was still undeniably funny. It ended with Terbosic performing the legendary Houdini straitjacket escape, while simultaneously entertaining the female assistant he plucked from the audience with sexual bondage jokes.

Terbosic was debaucherous, but he couldn’t touch the vulgarly honest comedian Emma Arnold, who performed on Friday. Arnold, who draws her material from childhood experiences of orthodox hippy parents and living in a teepee, said comedians should challenge audiences’ comfort zones with vulgar humor.

“I think that it’s important for comedians to be ‘edgy’ — on the edge of social norms and boundaries, testing those limits and theories and pointing out the places where society has fallen short or is just plain wrong,” Arnold said.

The Comedy Festival plans to return to the city again next year, with new headliners and comics. A judging board picks the festival’s acts each year in order to show different facets of the improv art form and best represent Pittsburgh.

“Pittsburgh is a warm and friendly city,” Simmons said. “The festival tries to mirror that energy and create an intimate comedy-going experience … The comedy scene here is growing so fast that it warranted a weekend-long festival.”

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Hilarity in the Heymann