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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

National Comedy College Competition Pits Berkeley vs. Stanford -- Who Will You Choose?

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2012 at 12:30 PM

"It's a battle between the 99 percent and the one percent ... It's like a peasant uprising [through comedy]." - Eli Peterson, Cal student and comedian.

This week marks the third round of the 5th Annual National Comedy College Competition, in which the ages-old rivalry between Stanford and Cal is reduced to jokes.

click to enlarge Berkeley's comics: Dash Kwiatkowski, Eli Peterson, Varun Rajan, and Rose Guthrie. - COURTESY ROOFTOPCOMEDY.COM
  • Courtesy
  • Berkeley's comics: Dash Kwiatkowski, Eli Peterson, Varun Rajan, and Rose Guthrie.

The competition -- sponsored by the basic-cable channel TBS -- started on 32 campuses across the country earlier this spring with a talent search in which each campus chose teams of eight comedians to represent it. In the second round, Cal and Stanford came together for a live showcase at San Francisco's Purple Onion. Judges eliminated four comedians from each team, and videos of the remaining acts were put online for the current Regionals Round, in which the public can vote to send their favorite team to the Quarterfinals.

The winning college student comedy team will win VIP trips to Chicago in June for a chance to perform at the TBS Presents Just For Laughs festival.

Berkeley has taken the Regionals the past three years against Stanford, going on to the Quarterfinals in 2010 and the Semi-finals in 2009.

"Berkeley's won the past [three] years because they have a larger student body," says Stanford competitor Tommy Liu, a first-year grad student in Mechanical Engineering. "Give Stanford comedians a fighting chance!" 

His teammate Anthony So, a sophomore in Science, Technology, and Society, adds, "Stanford is always the underdog in this competition ... I think that Stanford, especially this year, really deserves the chance to get to the next level for once. Also, I think we have a really diverse slate this year. We all come from different backgrounds and have different senses of humor."

click to enlarge Stanford's squad: Tommy Liu, Anthony So, Arbel Kodesh, and Harley Adams - COURTESY ROOFTOPCOMEDY.COM
  • Courtesy
  • Stanford's squad: Tommy Liu, Anthony So, Arbel Kodesh, and Harley Adams

Berkeley comedians suggest that it's more than simple numbers that gives Cal their perennial advantage.

"We earned it," says Berkeley comedian Dash Kwiatkowski. "We have a team of people who have been performing for a long time, who have a feel for the stage and how to entertain people. We're better comedians."

Kwiatkowski performed as an actor and musician for years before he started stand-up two years ago. Returning Cal competitor Eli Peterson has done stand-up for a year and a half. Their teammates Varun Rajan and Rose Guthrie have sketch backgrounds but, like many of the comics, both got behind the mic for stand-up for the first time during this competition.

"[The competition] was a good chance to do stand-up since there's not a lot of open mics around Stanford," says Liu.

Guthrie admits, "I'm really lazy, so it was a good kick in the pants to get started."

Last year's Talent Search round was So's first stand-up performance, though he wasn't chosen for last year's team."I wanted to show everyone just how far I've come as a writer and performer from last year," he says this year.

You can catch clips of each of the 8 comedians, and vote for your favorite team online at Rooftop Comedy through April 12th. Anyone can vote -- you don't have to be a college student -- and you can vote every five minutes, so feel free to bookmark the page and send your favorite team to the next round. This is democracy!

"Just watch the videos," says Peterson, "and the performances will speak for themselves."

Follow Dana Sitar on Twitter at @danasitar, SF Weekly's Exhibitionist blog at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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