“Daily Show” Comic, Students Perform in Finney


Nicki Kattoura

A crowd of between 800 and 1,000 students packed Finney Chapel last Saturday, with the downstairs seating filled completely for Jaboukie Young-White’s free stand-up performance.

Close to 800 students filled the pews of Finney Chapel last Saturday to watch a highly-anticipated stand-up comedy performance by comedian Jaboukie Young-White. The event also featured student comedians as openers for Young-White. 

College senior and Program Board member Kira Felsenfeld, who pitched the idea to the Student Union and petitioned the Student Finance Committee for funds, organized the show as part of a drive to bring more well-known comics to campus.

“[The SFC was] so generous with ad hoc and they’ve been really excited about bringing student acts,” Felsenfeld said. “I think it’s like, this is a really fun thing to do. We might as well have people … who you think [are] enthusiastic or who would bring enthusiasm.”

College senior Gabi Shiner, who kicked off the opening student performances, felt that the night was successful both personally and in terms of programming. 

“I had a lot of fun — I liked the challenge of having to match the energy of that many people,” she wrote in an email to the Review. “I thought the event was amazing. It was so cool that comedy was showcased in a way that it isn’t traditionally showcased at Oberlin.” 

College senior Michelle Chu, who also performed Saturday, echoed Shiner’s sentiment. 

“I think that empowering upcoming artists and comedians [who] have an important, fresh perspective should be encouraged,” she wrote in an email to the Review. “I feel like Oberlin does a great job bringing upcoming [and] trendy musicians, but doesn’t really focus on many other types of entertainers besides poetry.”

Felsenfeld agreed and believes that, with the funds available to students, programming should focus on bringing popular and unique voices to campus.

“The goals [of the event] were to bring a comedian who wasn’t just representing a white-dude demographic,” she said. “We brought comedians like Brandon Wardell in the past who were just reading [their] tweets and … weren’t that interesting. Jaboukie is a queer person of color from the south side of Chicago who also speaks really candidly about … violence against trans women and against trans people of color. That’s really powerful and we might as well be having that open conversation, but also through a medium of comedy, it’s really amazing.”

Much of the event’s success, Shiner says, came not from Young-White’s fame, but from his ability to speak to the feelings many students share about their place in society. 

“I don’t know that the success of the event even necessarily has to do with how big Jaboukie is,” she wrote. “I think the audience response was so positive because Jaboukie is really in touch with how 20-somethings actually think in a climate where we’re told how buzzword-y and fake we all are.” 

Felsenfeld also found this to be one of his strong points.

“Jaboukie is really well known within our generation and within our demographic and reaches a lot of different audiences,” she said. “We had so many people from so many different backgrounds at the show. So I think that that definitely reflected our goals of what we wanted from this event.”

For the student performers, it was an opportunity to perform outside of the small, cramped basement shows that have come to define the Oberlin College stand-up scene. Chu was excited by the opportunity and hopes that the event generates momentum for the College comedy community.

“It was exhilarating performing in front of so many people!” she wrote. “I’m hoping that the Oberlin comedy scene will start to grow and continue to empower [people of color] that have fresh jokes that people haven’t heard before.”