20,000’s a crowd

oliver-poster.jpgSome 20,000 students eagerly wedged into the 985-seat Mandel Hall Saturday night to watch the comedic stylings of the Daily Show’s executive producer Rory Albanese and correspondent John Oliver. The fire marshal appeared about 15 minutes in to break up the dangerously large crowd, but quickly abandoned that task, hypnotized by the two comedians’ quirky, intelligent, and (need we say it?) side-splitting stand-up routines. So, just to reiterate: way more people came to this year’s Major Activities Board comedy show than last year’s, which featured the eponymous star of the new Comedy Central show Important Things with Demetri Martin (also a former Daily Show correspondent).

OK, OK, Oliver and Albanese told us to say that. (Oliver’s British accent is very persuasive.) When the MAB coordinators drove the funnymen to campus, they reported that the tickets sold were actually 100 fewer than last year. Not wanting to appear less popular than Martin, Oliver and Albanese appealed to the University of Chicago bloggers in the audience (ahem) to report that the duo had surpassed last year’s sold-out show.

During the two-hour show, the comedians seemed delighted to find themselves in a room full of “nerds” who had “stopped doing homework to come to a comedy show” on a campus that reminded Oliver of a “Dickensian wonderland.” When the auditorium went wild over punch lines about Milton Friedman, the Catholic Church’s testy relationship with Galileo, and the 1997 transfer of Hong Kong from British to Chinese hands, it was hard to tell who was more amused: the audience or the comics.

After their performances, Oliver and Albanese took questions from the audience, discussing topics such as working with Jon Stewart (“We’ve never met him”), how to break into comedy (plenty of stand-up), the outlook for Liverpool football (not good), and the best place in Hyde Park to grab a post-show drink (inconclusive).

Elizabeth Chan and Ruth E. Kott, AM’07

Oliver's Daily Show interview of Kenyan ambassador Zachary Muburi-Muita (embedded above) went a bit "too far," he admitted to the Mandel audience.

February 23, 2009