Two microphones stood upright on a softly lit stage as a steady stream of people shuffled into the basement.
Student stand-up comedians Olivia Rodrigues, BC ’18, and Jonah Gould, CC ’18, are offering a better way to delay finishing your stats problem set than watching 45 minutes worth of pancake art videos.
Rodrigues and Gould debuted their weekly standup variety show, “Memento Mori,” last Monday night at Postcrypt Coffeehouse in the basement of St. Paul’s Chapel. Admission to the weekly Monday night shows is free, and each show includes performances by Rodrigues and Gould, as well as a rotation of student stand-up comedians, student musicians, and professional stand-up. And don’t worry, you’ll still have time for that stats problem set—the show’s run time is only 45 minutes, an hour maximum.
Inspired by its location, the show’s name, “Memento Mori,” translates from Latin to “remember death.” Rodrigues justified the eerie choice: “[The show’s] in the basement of a church, which is like the catacombs where bodies are kept. We wanted to play with that, but not play with religion too heavily. ‘Memento Mori’ seemed like a good way to integrate that theme of death and eternity while steering clear of a religious critique.”
The series is a response to Rodrigues and Gould’s own observations about the comedy world. Gould described how starting out as a stand-up is often difficult, and frequently involves performing in harsh, uncomfortable environments.
“We wanted to throw our own night,” Gould said, expressing how they wanted to direct not only the comedic material, but also the atmosphere in the room, “what music’s playing—something that’s welcoming and joyful. Most comedy clubs feel sleazy and mean. It doesn’t have to be that way.”
Rodrigues added that she would like to create a space for more diverse comedians. For instance, the evening’s debut headliner and professional comedian, Joel Kim Booster, identifies as a person of color in the LGBT community. Rodrigues is particularly excited about the number of female comedians who are already lined up to perform sets. “We just want it to be a very honest, small, comedic space that doesn’t feel bound by anything,” she said.
In addition to Booster, Rodrigues, and Gould, Monday night’s show included performances by musician Caleb Collins, CC ‘20, who just released a debut single, and comedian Henrietta Steventon, CC ‘18, who performed her own one-woman show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this past summer.
The night’s material was varied, from Booster’s talking about what it was like to be a gay kid growing up in a conservative family to Steventon’s contemplations on feminism. Steventon included the line, “If I had to choose between a steak and the right to vote, I’d order a fucking ribeye and be done with it.” Meanwhile, Collins crooned about love and heartbreak on his acoustic guitar.
“Memento Mori” aims to be a place for a diverse range of people, including Rodrigues and Gould, to share themselves with audiences. “[Comedy’s] a really unique way to find people’s personalities,” Rodrigues explained, “I think that’s what I enjoy most out of it. That’s what I want the audience to get the most. When I see Jonah go up there, I want them to see my friend who I love and the best parts of him condensed and presented to them in this neat five minutes.”
Updated 5:32 p.m. Nov. 2, 2016. This article previously stated that Olivia Rodrigues was a member of the Class of 2019, when she is in fact a member of the Class of 2018. Spectrum regrets the error.