Students Crack Up For Charity

Unnamed photo
Katherine M. Gray

Comedian Judah Friedlander performs at Comedy for a Cause in Sanders Theatre Saturday night.

Sanders Theatre may ordinarily be home to courses like Ec 10 and Moral Reasoning 22, “Justice,” and a capella performances—but on Saturday night it played host to racy jokes and raucous routines.

A sold-out crowd roared with laughter as six stand-up comedians, all performing without pay, helped raise money for Deep Roots—an organization devoted to education in the third world—as part of the Harvard Concert Commission’s (HCC) second annual Comedy for a Cause.

Some of the night’s performers did comment on the atypical venue-with its chandelier, statues of the American patriot, James Otis, and a former Harvard president, Josiah Quincy, and grand wooden ceiling.

“I feel sorry for you guys,” said one of the comedians, Mark Maron, who formerly co-hosted a show on Air America Radio. “Even the architecture of this place makes you feel guilty—three-hundred-year-old wood looking down upon you, saying ‘don’t disappoint us’.”

Maron also made reference to the this weekend’s Head of the Charles event—calling it that “dockside preppy clusterfuck” that he had strolled through that afternoon.

“It was like an L.L. Bean obstacle course,” said Maron.

Another comedian, Tim Young, who said he has worked at over four hundred colleges, said there was “a great energy to the whole night.”

Young said that while the crowd’s reaction to his racier material was “a little more conservative” than he expected, he had seen worse.

He told one joke that referenced a website trading in religion-themed sex toys.

“I couldn’t even say those words in the Midwest,” he said.

Judah Friedlander, an actor on the “30 Rock” T.V. series who also appeared at last year’s Comedy for a Cause, said the event was a good change of pace for him.

“I play a lot of dives,” he said. “I usually only go out of town for money, but these people [the HCC] are so nice, it’s for a good cause, and its a good crowd.”

Friedlander added, “No hecklers here—it gives you hope for the future.”

Tom Shillue, who has been featured on Comedy Central, said he also appreciated the audience members.

“These guys loved what I consider to be my smarter material—they really loved it,” he said.

HCC promotion chair Lauren P.S. Epstein ’07 said the sales increase—to over 1,000 seats sold—from last year’s Comedy for a Cause, which did not sell out, was partially due to Saturday’s event being a return engagement.

Epstein said that increased experience on the part of the student organizers, along with word-of-mouth promotion from last year’s concert, helped push sales skyward.

While certain concessions had to be made—reflected by comedian Paul Mercurio’s complaints about not being allowed to drink a beer onstage—it was clear that the performers held little back.

“These are regular kids” said Modi, who hosted the event. The comedian said he didn’t feel a need to temper his act for Harvard.

“There are colleges where you feel it, but not here,” he said, referring to audience discomfort with controversial jokes.

“Their material is their material,” said HCC Director G. Tyler O’Brien ’07. “Once they get on stage, it’s their show.”

O’Brien said the event’s revenues “exceeded expectations”, and that while the numbers were not yet finalized, HCC hoped they would approach 10,000 dollars.

The beneficiary, Deep Roots, grants scholarships to students in Namibia, Nepal, Zambia and Guatemala.

Comedy for a Cause was HCC’s second consecutive sold-out event this semester, according to O’Brien. It follows the cancellation of HCC’s Wyclef Jean concert last year due to poor ticket sales,

Last month’s visit by the Barenaked Ladies, as part of the HCC’s Harvard LIVE! series, was sold out as well, O’Brien said.

“We’re much better now at giving the campus shows that they’ll be interested in,” he said.

—Staff writer Nicholas A. Ciani can be reached at