Adam Mamawala is on the rise again, and this time, the junior communications studies major and comedian is laughing all the way to an opening slot at one of New York City’s most famous comedy dens.
On Dec. 8, Mamawala was crowned “New Jersey King of Campus Comedy” after defeating 35 other would-be stand-up comedians at Monmouth University to win the New Jersey Comedy Festival.
“After I performed at the finals, I felt really good about my chances, but there were over 30 people competing against me, so I wasn’t sure,” Mamawala said. “When they announced that I was the winner, I didn’t jump around and scream or anything, but I was obviously thrilled that I had been chosen.”
Of course he was thrilled. The new “King” received $1,000 and an eventual opportunity to perform at New York City’s infamous Laugh Factory, a stage that has been graced by a veritable “Who’s-Who” of stand up comedy.
Despite the swagger and confidence Mamawala exudes on stage, the rising stand-up admits to being a little star-struck by his upcoming trip to the Big Apple.
“I’ll probably be nervous right before I go on, but to even get a chance to perform on the same stage as the likes of (Jerry) Seinfeld, (Dave) Chappelle and Chris Rock will be incredible,” Mamawala said.
The last time Mamawala competed at the state level, he fell short. Despite overwhelming fan support, he watched in disappointment as fellow College comedian Vegas Lancaster, junior philosophy major, ran away with the “Catch A Rising Star” comedy contest in Atlantic City. One year later, a more subtle, more intelligent Mamawala appeared on stage at the NJ Comedy Festival’s qualifying round in November, wielding a new and powerful weapon: impressions.
“I think what really separated me from the other comics was that I was the only one to do impressions. That showed versatility that few other comedians displayed at the finals,” Mamawala said.
The calm, collected junior unveiled an arsenal of spot-on impressions during the NJ Comedy Festival, delighting the crowds at the College and Monmouth as he bounced back and forth between a thick Irish brogue, a spot-on Borat and an aggressive Samuel L. Jackson circa “Pulp Fiction.”
His performance and delivery aren’t all that have changed, though. During a previous interview with The Signal, Mamawala cited Dane Cook as his main influence, but now, the junior looks up to a different set of laugh-getters for inspiration.
“In recent years, Dane Cook has gotten away from using good material and resorts to yelling and running around the stage a lot. He’s still an entertaining performer, but I never wanted to be like him,” said Mamawala. “My humor has always been observational, and recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Mitch Hedberg, Demetri Martin and Louis CK. As far as the impressions go, there’s probably no one in comedy more versatile than Frank Caliendo.”
Despite his recent wave of success, Mamawala still refuses to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. Wary of taking the risks most artists must to succeed, the junior is determined to earn his bachelor’s degree and one day work in the public relations department of a major sports team.
“As much as I was honored and flattered to have won this competition, I still realize how hard it is to make it big in comedy,” Mamawala said. “My honest opinion is that if I were to dedicate my time fully to becoming a professional comedian, I could get somewhere with it, but there’s really no job security in stand-up comedy.”
Don’t lose hope Mamawala fans. While he won’t wager everything on a comedy career, he wouldn’t be against a life where he could work from 9 to 5 and then pass out punchlines at night.
“Ideally, it would be great for me to work in a big city and be able to keep doing stand-up consistently,” Mamawala said. “You get noticed by the right people, and a lot of good things can happen.”