By Anna Currell
First-year Comedic Arts students Eddie Tarr ‘24 and Jonah Bowen ‘24 met this semester and quickly bonded over their passion for stand-up and their disappointment over their lack of opportunities to do it the midst of COVID-19.
“We really wanted to get out there and perform, but it’s so hard during the pandemic,” Bowen said. While lamenting the loss of normal comedy shows, Tarr and Bowen realized that Boston Common, located directly across from Emerson’s campus, would be a safe and accessible place to perform…with a built-in audience.
“If we can make people in a public park laugh, then we can make anyone laugh,” says Tarr. “It’s very tough conditions to start in, but it’s great practice.”
The students gathered their friends by word of mouth, letting other Comedic Arts students know that there was an opportunity to perform, and quickly formed a line-up that day.
“Our first show, we didn’t have any equipment. We were just yelling,” Tarr says. As the event grew, they expanded the shows to three live performances every Friday – 12:00, 4:00, and 8:00 pm, and later acquired an amplifier and a microphone. In true grassroots fashion, the students build their own setlist, audience, and stage.
“Typically, we have shows on Friday, but if there are poor weather conditions, we move it to Saturday,” Bowen said.
Tarr explains that students who want to perform will send a message to the official Instagram account or email, asking for a spot. He says they never turn anyone away; every performer gets a five-minute set.
“That’s really what this is about,” says Tarr. “We want people who normally wouldn’t be comfortable doing stand-up to try it for their first time.”
In addition to providing practice opportunities for students, Stand-Up in the Park has created a real sense of community for students who have missed sharing their art together since the pandemic.
“I want this to be a space for people to get comfortable with [performing stand-up] and share that experience with other people at the same time,” says Tarr.
“We both met so many people that have such a passion for what we love,” Bowen says. “So, we said, ‘Let’s all get together and let’s do it.’”
The students mentioned that their comedic inspirations who graduated from Emerson started in the same place at one point, and were encouraged to get the ball rolling to create a space to perform.
The show follows COVID-19 safety protocols, including all attending comedians and audience members wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and sanitizing the microphone between performers’ sets. They make announcements between sets to ensure that everyone is following the guidelines and staying safe.
In a time of so much uncertainty, everyone in the park could use a laugh. “This is the time,” Bowen says. “Let’s get out there and do it.”