Comedians on Campus: MacFarland, Ruskowski, and Brazao Adapt Jokes to Engage a High School Audience

Walking onto the stage to begin her performance, Kelly MacFarland looked over the crowd and said, “Your mom’s here.” As the audience immediately hushed, she took hold of the mic before continuing, “Oh, that shut you up real quick, didn’t it?” Taking a few steps closer to the edge of the stage, she smiled as the audience erupted with laughter.

MacFarland, the headliner of the night and first place winner of the Ladies of Laughter 2016 competition, was one of three stand-up comedians who performed in Susie’s last Friday night. Emily Ruskowski, a comedian from Danvers, and Zachary Brazao, a Boston local, opened the show for MacFarland.

In an email to The Phillipian, MacFarland wrote, “I had a great time with [Andover]… I’ve been making my living as a comedian for many years. I love it. Being a comedian is a gift. I’m lucky. I’ve traveled all over the world making people laugh, and the journey is just beginning.”

MacFarland remarked on the behavior of students in front and on things she noticed about her surroundings. To ensure that her audience felt engaged in the show, she brought a few students on stage.

Audience member Leeza Petrov ’18 said, “It’s a good way to spend a Friday night… It’s different, and typically, people would just be sitting in [Susie’s] anyways. It’s good to bring people together and watch comedy, rather than just everyone sitting in [Susie’s] on their phones… [MacFarland] especially did a really great job of making jokes about people in the audience and engaging people.”

Ruskowski was the first opener at the performance. She compared her old high school to Andover and shared some of her relatable struggles and experiences, cracking up the audience.

Audience member Hanna Nazzaro ’20 said, “I like how she connected some of her jokes to our school instead of just performing a set that she could’ve done anywhere. She related it to us, and it made it unique. I remember when she asked us if we were the smartest kids in the country, and everyone just started laughing and shouting, ‘No!’ ”

Usually performing at clubs, Brazao adapted his set designed for a city setting to better suit the younger high-school audience.

In an email to The Phillipian, Brazao wrote, “I do stand-up comedy because I love making people laugh. As we become increasingly immersed in the digital world, I don’t think there is anything that beats the spontaneity, warmth, and intimacy of live performance. Stand-up can be very unpredictable, but it is usually funny and always human.”