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Hear funny at the ‘Voices of Comedy’ festival this weekend

Brandeis has had its own pseudo-music festival for years: look no further than Springfest. But this weekend, Brandeis will be hosting its first ever comedy festival. Organized almost single-handedly by Anna Cass ’21, “Voices of Comedy” is a two-day event coming this Friday and Saturday, March 6 and 7. 

First, on Friday at 8 p.m., the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC) Theater will host four stand-up comedians from Boston Comedy Chicks. Katlin McPhee will emcee the evening, with up-and-coming star Bethany Van Delft headlining. Last year, Van Delft was awarded Best Comic by “Boston Magazine,” and she has opened for Phoebe Robinson, Michelle Buteau, Rob Delaney and Michael Che. If you’d like to check out her early work, you can hear her on the storytelling podcast she co-produces, “Starstruck: Close Encounters of the Awkward Kind,” and on her debut comedy album, “I’m Not a Llama,” which is streaming on iTunes. 

Nora Panahi and Sabrina Wu will also be performing Friday night. Panahi, who describes herself as “a Boston-based Iranian-American Muslim-Buddhist stand-up comedian with great bangs and an okay body,” was the first female comic to win the title of “BU’s Funniest.” Wu has opened for Cameron Esposito and Ronny Chieng. 

Then on Saturday there will be a workshop in the Rose Art Museum taught by Kathe Farris. Farris is a member of the teaching staff at ImprovBoston and LaughBoston, as well as a coach for Boston Comedy Chicks. The intent here is clear: Brandeis students get the opportunity to learn from the same person who instructs the comics they saw the night before. Farris will provide an overview of stand-up as a medium and the process of constructing a set, teach the fundamentals of writing a joke and give advice on how to step into the space of a comedian. 

Finally, Saturday night, there will be an open mic in The Stein from 7 to 9 p.m. Anyone is welcome to perform, with the workshop participants getting the chance to put what they’ve learned on display. The festival is sponsored by the Department of Student Activities; the English department; the HIATT Career Center, Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center (PARC); Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGS); WBRS, Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation Program (CAST) and the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life. All events are free. 

It’s Cass who has brought these different sponsors together, and who made the festival happen. Bringing new perspectives to campus was very important to Cass. In an interview with The Brandeis Hoot, Cass shared, “[In my time at Brandeis] for family weekend, we’ve had white men. And white men can be funny, but they don’t hold a monopoly. I thought it was really important to bring other comedians, especially because, in order to laugh at comedy, you have to empathize with what the comedian is saying. I feel like that type of storytelling is very important for building connections. I really wanted to bring more people, and then provide opportunities for students who might find them funny or want to try it out.” 

“We have so many perspectives and so many really cool women,” continued Cass, “I was just like, this needs to happen,” adding that she’s been receiving real support from the CAST program. “I wish there were so many more different perspectives [in the mainstream], so I started working on this in October, got it fully funded in January. It’s been moving very quickly.”

At the end of our interview, Cass’ face lights up. “These people are so funny. I’m so excited!” And thanks to her efforts, you don’t have to take her word for it, or go farther than the SCC to see for yourself. 

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