Not just for laughs: First ever comedy night held at TWC

Nick Govindan (C’21) performs his set at Comedy Night. Photo by Sambhav Bansal (C’23).

By Mary Katherine Saye
Executive Staff

The Tennessee Williams Center held its first Comedy Night on January 30, starring Nick Govindan (C’21), Dillon Sheehan (C’22), Sarah Elizabeth Mixon (C’21), Finn Gallagher (C’21), and Theo Pound (C’22). The purpose of the show was to be able to have a production that was less formal than others at Sewanee and to attract people from outside the theater department. The show was centered around comedy, but not confined to stand-up. Sheehan, the orchestrator of the event, shared that he wanted Comedy Night to be a “change” from the “normal studio theater shows,” and did so by including acts such as Gallagher’s comedy-magic, and Mixon who brought “topics to the stage that would otherwise be left out in a line up full of men.”

Preparation for the show was surprisingly relaxed, the group preparing only days before. Sheehan emphasized the importance of feedback in these rehearsals, and though each had an individual set with different styles, this process showed how all the performers were able to support each other. 

Advisor for the Studio Board, Associate Professor of Theatre Jim Crawford, commented that student-produced shows such as Comedy Night not only allow students to “create fun and provocative performances,” but also give them the opportunity to “take risks.” Pound agreed, explaining that in comedy, he believes in “telling things as truthfully as [he] can,” which requires one to “be okay with being vulnerable.” 

Hailing from various backgrounds of stage experience, each performer found the process of creating their own act to be new and exciting. Gallagher shared that he started his magic act as a street performer, and this was his first magic performance in a theater. Pound gained experience at a local comedy club in his hometown where they would feature shorter sets, so he admitted creating a longer set for Comedy Night was “challenging” but “very fulfilling.”

Govindan started his comedic journey by telling other people’s stories. But for Comedy Night, he shared that in the process of creating his set, he used a collection of personal stories with a “beginning, middle, and end.” One of the biggest things he appreciated from this show was that it gave him a “sense of ownership” over his material. 

Comedy Night welcomed diverse styles of comedy. According to Sheehan, he embraces the “observational George Carlin style,” while Mixon’s set he describes as the “Amy Schumer/ Sarah Silverman type.” Gallagher was inspired by Ricky Jay, Pop Haydn, and Penn and Teller. Pound “fit the self deprecating Mike Birbiglia type.”

With the success of this show and the positive feedback from the variety of the sets, Sheehan was happy to report that Comedy Night has “sparked conversations within the Theatre Department to continue this show into the future.” He hopes to have a show each semester, and Govindan adds that he sees its potential to give Sewanee students who aren’t “seasoned performers” the opportunity “to be onstage and showcase their skills.” Comedy Night seemed to receive a warm welcome, not just for its informal structure and its promise of a humor-filled night, but for the opportunity for support and feedback, making it about community, not just laughs.