Temple’s annual Welcome Week festivities came to a conclusion on Saturday night with nearly the exact same sight as years past: kids flooding out of the Liacouras Center, flushed and smiling, being herded away from oncoming traffic by police officers. Unlike years past, however, attendees pre-gamed their Saturday nights with a comedy show. The Welcome Week guest performer spot, held in previous years by rappers as varied as Wale and Big Sean, was occupied by comedian, actor and soon-to-be author Aziz Ansari. Tickets were distributed four hours before show time and a small drove of students lined up in advance around the block to get free tickets.
Ansari, most currently known for his role as Tom Haverford in “Parks and Recreation,” has slowly become a household name (or, at the very least, a dorm room name) since his days as one-third the sketch group behind MTV’s “Human Giant” series, along with Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel. After breaking through to a large audience in the movie “Funny People,” Ansari parlayed his success into parts of other films such as “30 Seconds or Less” and “This Is The End”, and even showed up for a split-second cameo in the video for Kanye West and Jay-Z’s music video for “Otis.”
When the Main Campus Program Board first announced the news on its Twitter, reactions were mixed, if only for reasons summed up by @themikeyc123, actuarial science sophomore Michael Ciccone, “we can’t turn up to a comedian.” @Curt_Rosenbauer let MCPB know in more succinct terms how he felt with a hearty “BOOOOOO” tweet reply. Whether or not the naysayers wishing for a more apt soundtrack to “get turnt to” actually went to the show or not, there was hardly a frown to be found amongst the faces leaving the Liacouras Center on Saturday night.
What brought on MCPB’s decision to inadvertently anger a few Twitter followers?
“We wanted to try something different, something the campus hadn’t seen in awhile,” said Amy Bendekovits, Senior Tourism and Management student and Vice-President of the MCPB. Bendekovits was “very pleased” with the turnout, and said that “comedy shows are popular if we have the right people.”
Comedy shows are technically nothing new for MCPB, as Bendekovits cites last year’s show by a partial representation of the cast of “The Daily Show” and a comedy show with headliners Key and Peele in 2011, just as they started their show on Comedy Central.
The process of picking a Welcome Week performer is just about as cut and dry as imaginable.
“We start brainstorming for Welcome Week and Homecoming in May,” Bendekovits said. “A group consisting of me, the president, two co-chairs and our advisor start a really long e-mail chain and just brainstorm and figure out who we can afford and would be popular and so on.”
Ansari began his set previewing jokes from the upcoming Roast of James Franco, and then moved right into material culled from previous tours “Dangerously Delicious” and “Buried Alive”, the latter of which was recently filmed for a future concert special at the Kimmel Center this past April.
The main theme of the night was the way relationships are approached and handled in a modern age. In a particularly funny exchange, Ansari tried and failed numerous times to connect on a bit about text messages between new acquaintances when some front-row audience members seemed to misunderstand his prompt.
“It’s a simple question!” Ansari laughed to the rest of the audience. Ansari appeared to have hit his mark with his subject matter, as cries of “So true!” rang out from the stadium numerous times.
As is customary with any performance of any kind in the 21st century, the occasional hollow light of a cell phone illuminating texting hands shone out, sprinkled throughout the arena. However, in a show where a fair number of the jokes revolved around the haplessness of texting one’s way into a romantic relationship, maybe the audience can’t be blamed for that particular misstep.
Immediately post-show, groups of students could be heard attempting to retell favorite bits to each other, and most agreed that a comedy show is a good change of pace.
“I had to look up his stuff on YouTube beforehand,” said Jordan Sowell, an undeclared freshman. “But I really liked it and was very surprised.”
Nelson Pun, a recent transfer student in the film department, identified what might have been a key factor in the high attendance.
“I was excited when I first heard about it and it was free,” Pun said. “Free is important.” senior theatre major Trevor Flocco was impressed with Ansari’s “ability to make a few subjects go on for an hour. It was thrilling.”
Kevin Stairier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org