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Four students win scholarships at Comedy Knight event

After hearing from 11 different stand-up comedians, four students were selected to receive an award of $4,000 each

<p>GianGrasso — who performed stand-up for the first time in this competition — said he was anxious but gained new views on comedy from the experience.</p>

GianGrasso — who performed stand-up for the first time in this competition — said he was anxious but gained new views on comedy from the experience.

Students gathered in Alumni Hall Tuesday to hear from 11 of the University’s most ambitious stand-up comics. The prize included one of three $4,000 awards given by the William W. W. Knight and Beverley Randolph Knight Scholarship. The annual competition, dubbed “Comedy Knight,” included live performances from students as well as the announcement of two other winners, one for a comedic film project and the other for a humorous essay, who both submitted their entries in advance.

Third-year College student John Gnik won the award for film, first-year College Student Anish Shah won the award for writing and second-year College student Grant GianGrasso won the award for stand-up comedy. First-year College student Mary Walton Petersen won the “crowd favorite” vote. Third-year College student Samuel Gerardi, won an additional $4,000 scholarship after the organizers opted to award a fourth prize Wednesday.

Tuesday’s competition was the first since 2020 to be held in-person, although competitions have been held since 2017. Despite some concerns of potentially decreased attendance, the hall was full, with about 150 people in attendance. 

Alumni Association staff member Elizabeth Joyner, who organized the event, was happy to see a quick return to pre-pandemic enthusiasm. She noted that in 2018, President Ryan had judged the event, giving it a high profile.

“We hope to get back to that level of event in the future, but in the meantime we were delighted that so many students came out last night just to support their friends,” Joyner said in an email statement to The Cavalier Daily.

Shah’s written entry, titled “Parental Units,” focused on the counterintuitive experience of parenting children through the lens of his own memories as a child. Although the essay was comedic — with anecdotes from monopoly money to playing with fire — Shah found a broader point.

“I believe that parents are too harsh on their children and that forcing kids to do mundane, unoriginal tasks, stifles their imagination — something that plagues children today,” Shah said in an email statement to The Cavalier Daily.

Gnik’s film entry, titled “Scrabblers,” features a young man who gets into a relationship and becomes suddenly obsessed with the board game Scrabble. Gnik also won the film competition two years earlier.

In the stand-up competition, second-year College student Grant GianGrasso performed a light-hearted routine about the experience of moving from Buffalo, New York, to life at the University in Charlottesville.

“You’ve got people from all over the country coming to the Architecture School just for the competitive excavator-to-student ratio,” GianGrasso said. “I knew that, like, we beat y'all bad in the Civil War, but apparently Reconstruction is still happening.”

GianGrasso — who performed stand-up for the first time in this competition — said he was anxious but gained new views on comedy from the experience.

“I really had to elevate my comedy skills beyond ‘your mom’ jokes with the guys,” GianGrasso said in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “In the preliminary round, I forgot a bunch of my routine and almost pissed my pants in front of the judges. But who hasn't, you know?”

First-year College student Mary Walton Petersen took a different approach, talking about her childhood history of failed businesses and her experience as an older sister. Although she was voted “crowd-favorite” instead of winning a scholarship, she said it didn’t dissuade her.

“The mere act of showing up was really important to me,” Petersen said. “So I try not to think about the other competition too much and just focus on myself.”

When asked about her notable showing as a first-year student, she expressed that it was a lot easier for her as a comic to be herself instead of trying to create a character.

“Life is comedy,” Petersen said. “I think everyone has a lot of funny stories in their lives, and it’s just a matter of finding it.”

Although many scholarships at the University focus on character traits — like honor, integrity and hard work — the William W.W. Knight and Beverly Randolph Knight scholarship is one of only a few Alumni Association scholarships to focus on the good humor of its applicants, making it a unique opportunity for students. 

Joyner said the fund was set up by the Knights’ children — alumni of the University who saw the value of good humor in childhood and in adult life. Comedy Knight is run almost entirely by volunteers from the University’s faculty and student body, who have fostered a unique culture of stand-up scholarship.


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