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UVA Stepmom hosts its second-annual "Step Comedy Jam" on a night of endless laughter

The event brought witty humor, trendy apparel and killer music to a Tuesday night

<p>The event was a beautiful demonstration of how laughter is a universal language that brings people together and can offer students an escape from the stresses of everyday life.</p>
<p>Courtesy UVA Stepmom</p>

The event was a beautiful demonstration of how laughter is a universal language that brings people together and can offer students an escape from the stresses of everyday life.

Courtesy UVA Stepmom

Comedy lovers at the University showed up in droves to Crozet Pizza Buddhist Biker Bar Tuesday night for the return of UVA Stepmom’s fun-filled “Step Comedy Jam,” with musical guest Loose Champagne. The lineup of nine acts — which included both standup and improv comedy — made for an entertaining set filled with clever jokes, questionable stories and hilarious improvisation.

UVA Stepmom is an ironic college apparel brand created by third-year Commerce student Mary Walton Petersen that has become a fashion staple at the University in just under two years. The brand has a clear mission of spreading laughter with its quirky, satirical t-shirt designs such as “UVA Menace” and “UVA Ginger.” Tuesday night’s “Step Comedy Jam” sought to accomplish that same mission, and indeed it did — all while promoting the UVA Stepmom brand itself.

“I wanted to create an environment where there were no stakes, no auditions, just people who care about making other people laugh,” Petersen said.

A similar event was held last spring, but according to Petersen had about half the turnout, no band and took place on her own front porch. Peterson said the goal for this year was to reach an even greater audience and summon more creatives to display their skills.

Eager students flooded the patio area as the clock neared 9 p.m. Many viewers stood in a crowded line for the UVA Stepmom pop-up shop, which sold discounted merchandise from the brand. In a shameless plug from Petersen, each performer was dressed in their own UVA Stepmom t-shirt.

Petersen kicked the night off by welcoming the audience with some of her own stand-up that drew laughter throughout the set. She kept her jokes goofy, relatable and unapologetically herself. Even when the microphone erupted with feedback after a few of her sentences, Petersen adapted. 

“That was God boo-ing,” Petersen said.

Later in the evening, second-year College student Jesse Smith delivered another notable set. His scattered, awkward demeanor was made even funnier by him flipping through his notebook, struggling to find his jokes. 

“Believe it or not, this is my first time in like a 21-plus bar,” Smith said. “And if you need any proof of the fact that this is my first time in a 21-plus bar, I would refer to the fact that I have referred to it as a 21-plus bar up to two times now.” 

Smith spoke to the crowd very casually, occasionally losing his train of thought and telling personal stories not typically shared in front of strangers. It worked, nonetheless, and Smith never failed to keep the audience intrigued by what he was sharing.

“Step Comedy Jam” demonstrated not only a wide range of personality, but also a variety of comedy forms as well. Towards the middle of the show, Petersen introduced Amuse Bouche, an improv group of which she herself is a member. 

Amuse Bouche did not fail to amuse with their quick-wittedness and strong chemistry as a group. Members asked the crowd for a starting word and were met with an audience member yelling, “flamingo.”

Two members quickly rushed to the center and perked a leg up to portray a married flamingo couple. The scene proceeded to cut to different subplots mentioned throughout the story that gradually increased in absurdity. By the end of the performance, they were far gone from the flamingo plotline and had broken character in laughter too many times to count. The group maintained high energy from start to finish, making for a thoroughly enjoyable set.  

Some of the comedians channeled a similar zany energy with personal anecdotes. Another comedian, fourth-year College student Brad Shurtz, knew just how to work the crowd. His set was a story in which he needed to find a ride to Domino’s after getting his car totaled to redeem a carry-out only pizza coupon.

“So I did what any sane, normal person would do … go on Grindr,” Shurtz said. “I tried to make it pretty clear, nothing sexual.” 

The story in itself was comical, to say the least, but the storytelling is what made the set so engaging. Shurtz’s ability to read his audience and respond in a way that generated laughter made his set one of the highlights of the night.

When later questioned about the validity of the story, Shurtz confirmed it was very real. 

“I don't think I added anything to society by telling that story. If anything, I may have detracted from it,” Shurtz said. 

As the sets came to a close, Charlottesville R&B funk band Loose Champagne provided some smooth tunes for listeners to dance to as the crowd on the patio slowly waned. The band delivered a soulful rendition of Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” with strong vocals led by first-year College student Calista Nelson.

The night was a great success, and whether discussing bar experiences or their coupon-motivated journeys, every comedian was met with overwhelming support from the audience. 

“U.Va has such a fantastic comedy community,” Smith said. “It has been really good to find people who share a common interest in comedy and all things funny.” 

The event was a beautiful demonstration of how laughter is a universal language that brings people together and can offer students an escape from the stresses of everyday life.

“[Comedy] is always going to be there for you no matter what,” Petersen said. “To be able to tap into that skill is just my way of giving back to the people that gave us so much before.”


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