On Oct. 22, two Saturday Night Live cast members and one writer were able to step in as last minute substitutes for comedy magician Justin Williams at Jorgensen Center. Williams was abruptly called away due to a family emergency.
However, as the saying goes: the show must go on. The comedy special was hosted in honor of Family Weekend, where hundreds of tickets were purchased by students and parents. Thus entered the SNL staff, which consisted of one of their writers, Jake Nordwind, as well as relatively new cast members Sarah Sherman and James Austin Johnson.
Nordwind was the first to open the show with about a 20-minute set. It seemed like the audience generally enjoyed his material. He touched upon his experience with stand-up to college-aged crowds, as well as some funny commentary on people’s thoughts about Los Angeles (where he was born and raised). He found it difficult to gauge the material he wanted to present to the crowd. With it being Family Weekend, he wasn’t sure which demographic to cater his performance to. This material struggle was shared with Sherman and Johnson as well.
Sherman was up next, who quickly displayed her speedy delivery and bravery to touch upon any and all subjects. Sherman worked as a writer on “The Eric Andre Show” before making her SNL debut and even accompanied him on his latest tour as an opener. Both her and Andre’s style of comedy seem to be very similar.
She was able to grasp the audience’s attention for about the first 10 to 15 minutes of her set, but lost quite a few of them as she delved into some rather graphic descriptions of her own body parts. Sherman had a few additional humorous bits that definitely got the crowd to chuckle, but lost them again as she would carry jokes on for much longer than necessary. She did have an amusing bit with a crowd member – a proud father named Brian, who definitely likes to party. I was fortunate enough to be sitting right next to him.
Sherman’s performance could be compared to that of Jim Carrey in “The Mask,” which she even made a reference to. She must be bestowed some courageous credit though, as she didn’t tailor her material to an audience filled with parents and stuck to her usual wildly inappropriate style, regardless of whether they liked it or not.
After Nordwind covered another tight five between comics, James Austin Johnson came out to close the show with some fresh substance by displaying his masterful skills of impressions. He began with material that every comic who visits Storrs tends to start with: cow jokes. Being someone who has lived in Storrs for way too long, it can be somewhat stale when traveling comics make jokes about our cows, simply because they aren’t nearly as impactful to the community as they might think. It also shows some minor unoriginality.
Johnson then had some witty material about his relationship with his mother, and of course an impersonation of her was included. He then lost the crowd for a bit when he went off on pastor sermons and some other religious jokes that just weren’t as relevant in the northeast. He closed his set with startlingly accurate impressions of our last two presidents, which the audience adored, as well as some whimsical Bob Dylan material.
Overall, the show came out to be pretty mediocre. The comics were true to their form in sticking with their own personal style of comedy regardless of audience reactions. Perhaps audience members just weren’t as involved after expecting Williams. On the other hand, I know that I, as well as the Jorgensen staff and UConn as a whole, are grateful that these SNL stars were able to step up last minute to keep the scheduled program for everyone, providing a night of laughter nonetheless.