Eva Timoney / Gavel Media

John Mulaney Harnesses the Power of Comedy at Northeastern Show

On a dark, and stormy Thursday night, the last thing you’d expect is for students to be crossing campus, standing in seemingly endless lines, and crowding the hockey rink, their anticipation keeping them warm despite soaked-through sneakers and numb fingers. However, this is exactly what Northeastern students were up to on the evening of Nov. 7—eagerly filing into the arena to watch Nick Kroll and John Mulaney fill the room with laughter. 

The show was exclusively for Northeastern students, and was so coveted that the website kept crashing as students rushed onto their laptops to purchase tickets before they sold out. It was evidently very crushing to some of Mulaney’s largest fans, and as Huntington News, Northeastern’s student publication, noted, “Some students accepted failure instead of tickets.” However, those who were able to obtain tickets before they were gone arrived with buzzing excitement. As students settled into their seats, restless laughter rang throughout the stadium. The audience was ready for a night of campus-sponsored events that allowed them to take a break from intense work and encouraged them to loosen up a little. 

The laughter was raucous as Nick Kroll cleverly wove numerous jokes and skits together, many centered around a breakup and its relatable aftermath. He charmed the crowd with his various voices that he uses for his Big Mouth characters, joining the students in chuckling at his lackadaisical spontaneity and where it has gotten him thus far. As Kroll wrapped up his act and introduced the headliner, applause tore through the arena as an extremely tall, well-dressed, and familiar figure appeared in the curtains. 

John Mulaney finally stepped onstage, and the leftover stress from buying tickets seemed to dissolve from the students’ minds. The crowd was entranced by John Mulaney and his mannerisms, which they had all seen online but had never imagined they would see in person. Mulaney’s awkward humor was an interesting complement to Kroll’s crude humor. Flashing a knowing smile at the audience, Mulaney spoke about his antics in college, addressed his beloved French bulldog, Petunia, and made a genuine effort to connect with the crowd.

As he picked some students out of the audience to ask questions about Northeastern, he even remarked that he felt left out as the students roared with laughter at inside jokes. He seemed completely baffled when he learned that Northeastern students, who often participate in five-year programs, often refer to themselves as “third-years” rather than “juniors.” Students’ faces lit up at the authenticity of Mulaney’s presence, as he truly seemed to want to make them students laugh.

Comedy plays a niche role in our world today. It seems impossible to go anywhere nowadays without picking up a magazine or newspaper with strikingly heavy headlines or other reminders of the constant atrocities happening throughout our world. It may seem that comedy is irrelevant and trivial, but the key to comedy is that it is both relatable and a form of escape. If aimed at making people laugh, and not at making cruel jabs, it can be extremely beneficial to society. The Mayo Clinic even has an entire page dedicated to laughter as a stress reliever, and Mulaney’s comedy show seems to corroborate this, easing the moods of the busy students in the crowd. Although comedy can be questionable in terms of controversial jokes, Mulaney’s were—true to form—much more wholesome and inoffensive. Lovingly bitter jokes about his wife and quips about the love they share love for gossiping about friends were the extent of any harshness.

If the chaos of getting tickets, the shared love of Mulaney among stressed college students, and their pure enjoyment of the show are any indication, people are looking for positive outlets for stress relief, and comedy meets that need. Mulaney might be able to get a crowd roaring with his hilarity, but the benefits of comedy are truly no joke.

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