Comedy show draws laughs from audience, generates funds, support for veterans

RIOT members interact on stage during a performance as part of Operation Comedy on April 20. The event raised over $800 for the Rider Veterans Fund.

By Jessica Hergert

The second annual Operation Comedy show took place in the Bart Luedeke Center (BLC) Theater on Friday night, raising over $800 for the Rider Veterans Fund.

With the tagline “Our mission is to make you laugh,” students, families and veterans were treated to a night of stand-up and sketches, while honoring those who have served in the military.

“I was very pleased to see the students put the effort in to providing a quality show that reflects well on Rider and honors veterans and the military in a manner they deserve,” said Thomas Reddington, coordinator of veteran affairs and producer of the show.

Following the hour long information session set up in the BLC lobby for veterans, the audience began taking their seats, eager to see the many acts to come. 

After a beautiful a capella performance of the National Anthem by Rider’s Rolling Tones and an introduction by senior graphic design major and host Stephen Stein, the show kicked off with Rider Improvised Organization Troupe’s (RIOT) first of three sets. 

Immediately after taking the stage, RIOT conjured up excitement from the audience while the nine-person troupe played traditional improvisational games onstage. 

The first stand-up comedian of the night was senior communication major Zane Birnie, who is also an intern with the Rider Veterans and Military Affairs Office. 

Clad in a camouflaged baseball cap, Birnie had the audience in stitches as he touched upon relatable college problems such as the awkward line at the registrar’s office on the last day of class withdrawal. 

In classic comedic style, Birnie was taken off the stage by a large shepard’s crook while RIOT took the stage again for their second set. This time, in a game called “Press Conference,” RIOT looked for audience participation to help senior digital media major Jared Gollin guess that he was “Kermit the Frog going through a messy divorce.”

To close out the first act, New York City’s up-and-coming comedian Melissa Diaz took the stage. “Oh man, I’m so hungry,” Diaz started, immediately grabbing the audience’s attention. “I hope I bomb so you guys can throw tomatoes.” 

For her set, Diaz spoke of reaching 30, the world of drinking and how to get away with doing mushrooms.

Intermission followed, offering 11 winners a variety of prizes from marijuana testing kits to a traditional Meal-Ready-to-Eat dinner for two, to gift cards and coupons from sponsors like Hooters, Captain Paul’s Firehouse Dogs and Wawa. 

As the lights dimmed again, RIOT came back for their third and final set. Bringing a wannabe Batman, washed up Sesame Street characters and a serial killer turning into a cereal killer, RIOT delivered the promised “goofs, gaffs and hilarity.”

Headliner Jeffrey Paul closed the show with his stand-up about the problems with marriage and how being a high school teacher was a “far more dangerous job than working as an NYPD police officer.” 

With his thick Brooklyn accent, Paul let his set go where the audience led it, receiving a room full of applause from the still-laughing crowd. 

As Stein took the stage again, the veterans in the room were asked to stand for a “Heroes Recognition,” as a touching poem was read over the speakers, reminding those in the audience why they were there. 

After the show, viewers and participants had nothing but good things to say. 

“I thought it was really great. It went awesome,” said senior communication studies major and president of RIOT Chris Garino. “I am really proud of everyone that performed. There were less people than I was expecting in RIOT, but that kind of worked to our benefit because we were able to work together, and people were able to be in multiple scenes. Overall, I thought it was really, really awesome. I was happy to get the opportunity to do this again.”

Senior psychology major Ashley Leeds, public relations and co-acting coach of RIOT said, “I thought that the show was excellent. I felt like families, staff, faculty, students and military personnel were all able to enjoy the show. I think that comedy is very therapeutic for all.”

Sophomore digital media major Jared Theinert, who will be taking over as vice president  next year said, “It’s definitely one of those events that is a little bit underrated right now and it has potential. Especially from last year, it has grown so much. It’s definitely a really good cause that needs more attention and any little bit helps.”

“Every year this is a growing thing, unfortunately on a Friday night you’re not going to get as many college students as you would like, but I think it was a great crowd,” said Garino.

Reddington summed up the night in two words: “Mission accomplished.”

 Published on the 4/25/18 edition.

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