SNL alum Nasim Pedrad performed an altogether unusual (and slightly lopsided) hour of comedy in Goergen Athletic Center on Saturday.
Unlike many visiting comedians, Pedrad did not come with an opener. Instead, Pedrad was introduced by a video of the comedian impersonating Aziz Ansari, followed by a minute of, for some reason, the theme song from HBO’s “Silicon Valley.”
“I’ve always wanted to do comedy stiffly from behind a wooden podium,” Pedrad began.
Calling Pedrad a stand-up comedian would be lying, because her style is far more varied than that. Her performance involved elements of stand-up, but also elements of sketch comedy, improv, audience participation, and crowd work.
Perhaps the most impressive element of Pedrad’s performance is how she began with UR-specific humor. Most comedians will bring the same set of material to different audiences, refining it with each performance. Assuming Pedrad does at other performances what she did at UR, her style requires her to create new material for each performance — a pretty brave risk to take.
Within the opening minutes of her performance, Pedrad literally sang, “The parking situation could be better!” Singing something doesn’t really make it a joke, but there was a ring of righteous truth to it that merited well-deserved cheers from the audience.
My personal favorite UR-specific joke from Pedrad was also the geekiest (probably why it’s my favorite). The joke compared UR to Hogwarts: We say “first-years,” we have a quidditch team, we have elaborate underground passageways, and we have a clock that curses people.
If you were wondering, my second favorite joke was “Majoring in humanities at U of R is like majoring in finance at Juilliard. Or majoring in sobriety at Arizona State. Or majoring in anything at Trump University.”
Pedrad also wisely chose to hurl insults at RIT, a disappointingly easy way of winning over the UR audience, but very funny nonetheless.
“Just talking about [RIT] I feel like my virginity is coming back intact,” she quipped.
Pedrad finished her UR-centric segment with an audience participation game called “UR Secrets & Confessions or Tweet By Kanye West,” in which the audience had to guess, by applause, which phrases came from which source. It was simple, clever, and fun.
Then Pedrad shifted from UR-centric humor.
A bit about trying to teach her dad how to download Uber was quite well-told, featuring a delightfully surprising punchline. But once she shifted to talking about her career as an actor, things got ugly. The performance devolved into lukewarm stories that seemed only to serve as vehicles for name-dropping.
And, oh boy, did those names drop.
One joke was simply the fact that “New Girl” cast member Lamorne Morris sent her a weird photo. There really was no joke attached. The out-of-context photo was the joke. Which would be fine, except that isn’t a joke. Pedrad also managed to mention the fact that she has met or knows Lorne Michaels, Vanessa Bayer, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Tina Fey, Arianna Huffington, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, and Jay Pharoah. Pedrad started strong, but after drowning the audience in how many famous people she met/knew, it got a little tiresome.
The final segment, though, was fascinating enough to be redeeming. Pedred described the SNL weekly “cold reads” in which the cast reads every single sketch that has been written the previous day, and it is decided which sketches will actually be rehearsed.
Pedrad then had six audience volunteers experience the process themselves. They were brought onstage to play the parts of SNL cast members playing the characters in a bizarre sketch. It was weird, funny, and — more than anything — a purely entertaining and completely original way to end the evening.