Last Friday, comedian Jason Stuart visited campus for an hour of stand-up. The event, which was free to the public, showcased a notable talent with the LGBT community, and demonstrated a huge amount of acceptance on the behalf of all UC Merced students.
Stuart performed to a near-constant barrage of laughter, cracking jokes about every type of person, from the obese, to the mentally disabled, and even both homo- and hetero-sexual audience members. Stuart’s routine, which explored the limits of controversiality, included insulting students who arrived late, and audience members who sat in the front row and tried to text discreetly.
Despite his seemingly antagonistic approach to the audience, Stuart was well received; the campus community thoroughly enjoyed his performance, and his quick wit. Stuart engaged several members of the few-hundred person audience in witty banter, including amusing back-and-forth with the event’s organizer, Student Life Programs Manager Enrique Guzman.
In a nod to his diverse audience, Stuart’s comedy included parody of bisexuals, instructing them that “when you hit 30, pick a team, because you’re annoying everyone.” He also mentioned several notable political figures, including Dick Cheney, saying, “he had to have his heart replaced…I didn’t even know he had one,” and Cher, declaring “she has had more hands up her skirt than the Muppets.”
Though Stuart’s performance left little lacking in antagonistic humor (he mocked Whitney Houston’s drug overdose death, as well as several audience members’ having worn hoodies), he was partially unprepared for the audience’s lack of background knowledge in a few areas. However, Stuart kept a careful ear on the audience, and managed his content effectively to ensure that there was no gap in the night’s entertainment.
Stuart did an excellent job controlling the stage. By directly addressing students who came in late (and asking them to sit in the front row), he subtly made excellent parody of some of the aspects of modern academic culture. Stuart was also completely comfortable with his own body, and used obscene gestures to make maximum use of his visual presence. He controlled the stage, and was not afraid to use the entirety of the available space when necessary, including a spectacularly raunchy dance number that definitely concluded his performance.
After the performance, Stuart opened the floor for a brief question-and-answer period, prefaced by a disclaimer that he would not hold back anything in his responses. Though he did not live up to this claim (and likely with good reason), the Q and A session was nearly as amusing as the performance in chief, including Stuart’s impromptu responses to questions about his own experience coming out of the closet, and even his having hosted an awards series for a gay pornography festival. Stuart also fielded questions about his family life as a gay Jew, and his interactions with his sister (a highly orthodox Jew).
Stuart also spoke about how he was contacted to come to campus by Enrique Guzman, and about the local climate for LGBT individuals. He referred several times to his own upbringing in Southern California, humorously declaring, “I have no rights – I lived in Los Angeles, and they voted.” Stuart also spoke about his positive experiences as a gay person in show business, and was introduced by his involvement in television shows like “Everybody Hates Chris”, “Entourage”, and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
Stuart was a spectacular booking for the campus, and lent significant credence to Pride Week. His jokes were well tailored to the collegiate atmosphere, and reminded everyone that nothing is sacred in the world of comedy.
Students who attended the event noted that they had a great time, and took no offense whatsoever to Stuart’s antagonistic style. Sophomore Merlyn Perez’s name was mocked during the question-and-answer period, and she commented, through an enormous grin, “I have never been made fun of for my name. He was a fantastic comedian, and I’m looking forward to some of the other events of Pride Week!”