Mixed Signals and alumni put on a show

Mixed Signals entertain the College’s students with their special brand of improv comedy and audience participation games.
Mixed Signals entertain the College’s students with their special brand of improv comedy and audience participation games. (Vicki Wang / Photo Assistant)

By Mike Herold
Correspondent

Typical college students’ idea of a fun Friday night does not usually involve sitting around their campus student center for nearly two hours watching other people do things.

At the College this past Friday, Sept. 28, however, that activity would definitely have made the cut.

In front of an audience that was not nearly as big as it should have been, both alumni and current students gave great comedic performances at the Lions Latenight event.

The fun began with a performance by the College’s improv group, Mixed Signals. Despite having barely a day to prepare for the show and being short three of their eight members, the crew managed to entertain the crowd with a series of “Whose Line”-style games, including Ding, Storybook, Half-Life, Drunk Game and Challenge. The biggest hit was most likely the Drunk Game, which featured the Pope and his getting-drunker-by-the-minute 10-year-old daughter. It goes without saying that junior history education major Jonathan Bowler, junior nursing major Nina Shulgach, sophomore women’s and gender studies major Morgan Teller, sophomore music education major Shannon McGovern and sophomore biology major Garrett Verdone knew how to please their audience their improv chops.

After Mixed Signals left the stage, the main event of the evening featured two graduates of the College turned comedians who made their old campus laugh.

Leading off was Vinnie Nardiello, ’99, and closing out the show was headliner Jay Black, also from the class of ’99, who originally studied  to be an English teacher — and was one until his stand-up career took shape. (Black has also recently had a screenplay, “How Sweet It Is,” produced) The two began their friendship at the College, both worked as teachers and now often work comedy shows together. They also host a podcast called “Hungry Trolls” together. Interestingly enough, they also attended the College with the founder of Mixed Signals, Jeff Ryan, and were all too happy to give the current members advice after the show.

Perhaps the most interesting info the two shared concerned who exactly become comedians.

“It isn’t typically the ‘Whoo’ people,” Black said. “Comedians are more observers of life. To us, class clowns are hacks.”

Nardiello agreed, saying, “When people laugh at what you say, it’s like a kind of validation — I knew I was funnier than that guy.”

As for the acts themselves, both comedians focused on self-deprecating humor alongside funny stories on the ridiculous people they’ve encountered in their lives. Nardiello got the crowd going describing how he once watched a guido punch a seagull, along with a tale of what happens when a not-so-great teacher has a bit too much to drink at a staff party … and loses some control over bodily function, to put it lightly.

Black’s routine covered a broader range of topics, as he managed to cover religion, politics, his hairy body and several “rules” which he doesn’t make but are true nonetheless. Also in the act was a somehow flawless transition between poop jokes and porn jokes, and his belief that everyone would be a lot better off if they still did a “baby dance” every time their favorite song started playing.

Despite the meager audience, both performers were thrilled to be back.

“To me, doing a show at the College in front of 25 people is more meaningful than performing at a different college in front of 2,000,” said Black, who has performed at over 400 colleges. “And I want to do better here. Nobody wants to go to the place you called home for four years and mess it up.”

It’s safe to say that they were validated one more time.

To see these performers in the future, Mixed Signals’ next show will be Oct. 7 in the Library Auditorium. Jay Black also has a free CD available on his website at jayblack.tv.