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Welcome Back Comedy Night a real laugh

“Have you ever heard of the power of suggestion?” hypnotist Greg Steele asked the students at Welcome Days Comedy Night. It seems that no one had ever heard of the power of suggestion, not even UPB, whom many would have “suggested” to that Comedy Night would have been postponed in order to have found a more appropriate act. After two cancellations from comedians that UPB had previously booked, Mr. Steele was scheduled to be an impromptu replacement only six hours before the show.

The first comic to cancel on Case Western Reserve University was Dan Levy, a regular on Chelsea Lately as well as a part of the College Humor powerhouse. Levy also created and co-produced the E! Network’s reality TV show Pretty Wild which premiered in March of 2009. The show, about three daughters of a former super-model, was a hit, probably due in part to all the barely-legal girls. Yet, all this success was knocking hard on Levy’s door and he cancelled with UPB in early August in order to take an “exciting offer” that filmed the same night as CWRU’s Comedy Night. The cancellation was unfortunate, because Levy has been a hit at college campuses all around the United States and usually jokes around about what kids like: Robert Patterson, sex, and sword fighting.

After Levy cancelled, it was up to UPB to find another replacement, which they managed to do with time to spare. They then hired Dan Cummins, a comic that, like Levy, had specials on Comedy Central and who also has a sizeable collegiate following. Cummins has performed at over 200 colleges after getting his big break on Comedy Central’s Last Comic Standing. His newest comedy album Revenge is Near landed him a guest appearance on Conan in 2009. At this point, it looked like everything was destined to work out for the best.

Disaster struck early Wednesday morning in the form of a phone call from California. It was Cummins on the line; bad weather had him stranded at the airport with no way to make it to Ohio in time. Julia Pitts, a UPB Traditions Committee Co-chair, sprang into action and immediately started to look for yet another act for the night. “We contacted agencies with whom UPB has relationships, to ascertain what performers we felt would fit the audience appropriately and were available on our date,” Pitts said. “The UPB staff is a very collaborative team, especially in times of ‘crises’ such as a cancellation. It was through one of my fellow board members that I got into contact with Dan Cummins through an agency, and booked him shortly after receiving Dan Levy’s cancellation.”

One of the agencies that UPB apparently had connections with was Greg Steele, a comedic hypnotist from Cleveland. Greg is a specialist in corporate entertainment and is part of The National Guild of Hypnotists as well as The International Brotherhood of Magicians. “We were very happy!” Pitts commented on Steele’s performance. “Greg was well-received by the audience and was a great guy for us to work with as an organization.” Yet even though UPB had no control over the cancellations, Steele was a bit of a disappointment when compared to what the event could have had.

Most of the comedy-hypnotist’s act was based around guests becoming the stars of the show. This is one of Steele’s selling points on his website, which seems like fun when the people making fools of themselves are your friends, but it gets awkward when watching almost complete strangers do the same. Steele hypnotized a group of eleven volunteers and through the “power of suggestion” made them do funny tasks such as apply sunscreen, itch from itching powder, or cheer on their favorite horse at the races. However some of the commands seemed to get a little out of hand, at one point a girl stuffed her bra with toilet paper and another fell into the lap of the guy sitting next to her. These jokes seem pretty harmless, but if taken into account that Steele was a real “hypnotist”, the jokes suddenly seem more voyeuristic when one thinks that the volunteers may have not been in control. Yet, that’s if you bought Steele’s act.

“When planning events, surprises like this are always unfortunate, and it’s our job as organizers to do what we think is best for the audience. While we would have loved to have everything go smoothly, the issues throughout planning the Welcome Back comedian were out of our hands,” said Pitts. “At the time of Dan Cummins’ cancellation, the UPB staff and advisors banded together with the orientation leaders and the Welcome Days committee and all contributed to making the event work.” One of the ways that UPB made the event work was by avoiding telling the audience at the outset of the performance that Cummins had cancelled. Many attendees had absolutely no idea that Cummins was not still performing. If this was an attempt to keep students at the event it worked, but many still ended up leaving halfway through the performance.

While many students that attended the Welcome Back Comedy Night last Wednesday did enjoy Greg Steele’s performance, the various cancellations that UPB received were very disappointing. With another UPB comedy night scheduled to take place in the near future, let’s hope they can get a real comedian rather than a hasty replacement.

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