Last Saturday, Memorial Commons was host to Comedy Club Night with Monroe Martin and Jessi Campbell. The two accomplished guest comedians followed up the Strange Bedfellows with stand up acts, entertaining an audience of students and local community members alike. While the Bedfellows consistently delighted the crowd with their improvisation games, the two professionals received mixed feedback.
Although the audience seemed willing to forgive and forget the comedians’ missteps, there is no denying that some of the jokes made during both acts fell flat on the politically conscious ears of the Bates community. Among others, some of the more offensive jokes spoke directly of sexual violence and pregnancy scares, and alluded to cancer, violence within the NFL, and the association of “Indians” with “dum-dums.” With clear negative reaction from the audience members, Campbell seemed to draw back from the line of offense, noting the community’s tendency towards political correctness. Martin, on the other hand did not get the hint and pressed on, insisting that his calling pregnancy scars “bitch-marks” was indeed funny.
Ian Erickson ’18, Vice President of the Strange Bedfellows, commented on the propriety of these jokes, saying that he does “regret that Jessie and Monroe chose to perform (or even write) some of the material they had. . . While it is extremely problematic and unfortunate that Jessie and Monroe’s sets contained offensive material, it’s important that the relationship between comedy and politics be discussed more and the comics provided a useful lens for us to consider this issue through”. Although the audience may have had negative feelings towards the content, it can ultimately be chalked up to what Erickson optimistically calls a “learning moment”. However, knowing that this material which is sensitive by nature can be not only triggering but can also easily “continue dangerous stereotypes and perpetuate oppressive systems”, the Strange Bedfellows tend to avoid treading into its risky territory. The student group has high standards for itself, and “expect[s] the same of anyone who wishes to perform genuine and effective comedy”.
The political/social nature of their material is not the only performative aspect to which the group applies a high standard. Having the level of success that the Bedfellows find themselves with does not come haphazardly, and is not accounted for solely by the talent found within the group. Being able to know one another personally, Erickson observes, has lent itself to a positive dynamic where they are able to work together more cohesively. In order to maintain and improve their comedic talents, the group meets once or twice a week, using their time together to play the improv games that they might perform.
In starting to prepare for saying goodbye to three seniors after this year, the Bedfellows held auditions last week. They are proud to announce that they have accepted one new member, Joseph Alp ’18. Erickson says of Alp that he “brings a unique style of humor that the group can really benefit from, and we are excited to start performing with him!” Those hoping to see the Strange Bedfellows with their new member can look forward to their annual Parents’ Weekend Show on Saturday, October 8th at 3 P.M. in Schaeffer Theater. Like the Bedfellows on Facebook to get updates on their events and to show support for the always-hilarious improv group.