Comedian Max Silvestri, known for his appearance on Netflix’s “The Comedy Lineup,” walked onto the Harland Cinema stage on Nov. 14 to an audience of about 35 students, who barely filled the first five rows of seating. Silvestri’s set was a slow burn, but a satisfying one. The performance was about 45 minutes longer than his 15 minutes on “The Comedy Lineup,” which allowed him to open up more about his personal life and host a question and answer period following his set. From the get-go, Silvestri commanded the stage with a confident demeanor and likable persona. His energy was somewhere between deadpan and conversational.
Silvestri’s opening was met with sporadic laughter from a few involved audience members. He did not miss a beat, however, and joked that the crowd’s energy was exactly where he wanted it. This made the room roar with amusement. Like any good comedian, Silvestri gave the audience a little push to break them out of their shells.
After introducing himself, Silvestri revealed that the opener for the night, a student from Emory’s improv-comedy group, Rathskellar, decided not to attend an hour before the show. The reason given was the rainy weather, which Silvestri said was not a good enough excuse because he had to take a flight to be there. Apparently, the opener would have performed songs with a comedic twist.
Silvestri’s approach to storytelling involved introducing an awkward situation and then replaying his reactions to them, but the punchlines were too few and far between to make up for the long build up. Despite this, he excelled when it came to pantomiming along with the stories as he told them. Be it scarfing down a hot bagel in public or cleaning his nether regions with a hose, his physical comedy never failed to elicit laughter.
As the show progressed, Silvestri tried to spark engagement by talking to individual audience members. After opening up about life in his mid-30s and the tribulations of aging, Silvestri demonstrated his interest in the younger generation. He asked the Emory crowd what talents they had. The poor show of hands and giggling that followed was a joke in and of itself. Although his interest was genuine, these moments seemed to drag on and hurt the progress of the show. Nonetheless, some people did have interesting comments, for example, one theater major recounted the time she built a two-story metal scaffolding in order to fake hang a body for a production. Silvestri commended her hard work and turned the story into a running joke that would pop up again in other parts of his set.
Only a bold few took advantage of the question and answer period. One student, a prospective stand-up comedian, was curious about tips for starting a career.
In response to the student’s question, Silvestri posited three brief pieces of advice for starting comedy. He halfheartedly joked that the first rule was to play hard to get and flake out before shows (our own Emory comedian was ahead of the game). Next, he recommended to start a group with other like-minded people and put together collective shows. Lastly, he encouraged performing many gigs as possible and moving to cities that had other comics living there already.
Someone asked about how much of stand-up comedy, in a general sense, was real, and how much was made up.
“A lot is a lie, mine is not,” Silvestri said.
This unexpectedly turned into an impromptu bit about how, after his Netflix special, a friend of his called him out for making some additions to a story she told him.
“I try to tell real stories, but sometimes in the moment you do change it,” Silvestri said to the audience.
Student Programming Council (SPC) coordinator for the event, Nate Fisher (20B), accounted for the low turnout and engagement by saying that stand-up comedy is not popular among the Emory community in a Nov. 19 email to the Wheel.
“Honestly, comedy culture really isn’t that popular on campus, as demonstrated by the low attendance at the Silvestri show,” Fisher wrote. “The attendee who raised his hand and said he wanted to be a comic — that was a rare occurrence.”
All in all, Silvestri showed his strength as a comedian by pushing through the times in which the room had lackluster energy and a tough crowd. Silvestri is a consistent and exciting comedian and his performance had something for everyone to enjoy — he brought some light to a dark, rainy afternoon on campus.