It’s common for campus organizations to use entertaining events, food and other amenities for fundraisers. However, it is rare that they go above and beyond, like Operation Smile did, in providing a worthwhile and enjoyable experience for their donors.
Operation Smile, an organization that raises funds for cleft surgeries, hosted the first comedy show of its kind in Harland Cinema on Feb. 22 to benefit its cause. The tickets were $5 each and various comedians from the Atlanta area performed.
The show opened with a short performance from host Liam Harvey (22C), who enthusiastically greeted the crowd and went straight into a short routine. His jokes eased the audience into the show, providing relatable subject matter to which Emory students could genuinely relate. At one point, Harvey pointed out a girl who mentioned she was in a sorority and asked her to show him the sorority’s “gang sign,” referring to the hand signs that sorority members pridefully use.
Once Harvey warmed up the audience, the main acts took the stage. Noell Appling, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Georgia (UGA), delivered a high-energy routine with seamless narration. After greeting the audience as “nerds,” Appling spoke about his dad gifting him a PlayStation 4 and ranted about how ridiculous it was that his dad wouldn’t let him use it because it was new. This earned hefty laughs from the audience, and Appling went on to ask if it would be weird if he started planning for his own funeral. Soon after, and completely unexpectedly, he mentioned that by the time he was in heaven he’d finally be able to use his PlayStation 4. The audience lost it — Appling’s delivery was perfect.
Jay Badlani, also a UGA student, brought a different, albeit similarly successful, style of comedy. His delivery was slow, almost soothing, but the material was edgy. He started off by talking about the opioid epidemic, saying, “there’s a massive opioid crisis where I live. Hopefully by next year we’ll have enough for everyone.” Audience members laughed, some uncomfortably. But with this joke, Badlani immediately showed us what we were in for. He went on to speak about waterboarding, saying it’s an ineffective form of torture for brown people because “how are you going to threaten an Indian immigrant with clean water?” His comedy style was impeccably his own; he paired his blase attitude with taboo jokes, which made for intelligently construed and hilarious social commentary.
As the evening progressed, the audience became more responsive — while reserved and hesitant at first, acts like Samson Black, a Kennesaw State University (Ga.) student, and Joel Byars, a professional Atlanta-based comedian, brought material at which the audience couldn’t help but laugh. Additionally, the dark and spacious setting of Harland Cinema made things more comfortable. The large white projector screen on stage was also the butt of jokes; Byars said he’d be proud to tell others that he performed in front of the world’s largest dry-erase board.
However, Byars’ performance went on for what felt like an eternity. Multiple times, I came back from my tired trance to hear him making the same joke about shadow puppets. My favorite acts were Appling and Badlani, both only about five minutes long. In this comedy show’s case, shorter was better.
Despite Byars’ long performance, the show felt genuinely and seamlessly hilarious. Operation Smile, Harvey and his fellow comedians put on a memorable night that presented multiple comedic styles and minimal dull moments. Hopefully, they’ll have similar fundraisers in the future.