Standing up to the microphone and exchanging pleasantries with the audience, a UNC freshman reached over for a stool and sat down. He warned everyone that the awkwardness of the performance won’t be leaving. Recounting how his friends told him to be a stand-up comedian, the freshman said he followed their advice, adding the addendum of how “it’s just not ‘stand-up.’”
Luke Slayback, a psychology major, made his Open Mic Night debut on Monday, having previously performed at a nightclub in Fort Collins his junior year of high school. Slayback has been an official comedian for two years, but has had prior experience showing off his onstage charisma at various talent shows and community events as both a host and emcee.
Slayback said he signed up on an impulse.
“I thought it’d be interesting, and people told me I should, and I was like, ‘cool, I’ll do it,’” Slayback said.
The inspiration for Slayback’s hobby began when he was thirteen and saw comedian Steve Hofstetter live. From there, Slayback wanted to be like the man he saw onstage. Drawing influence from artists like Kevin Hart, Aziz Ansari and Gabriel Iglesias, Slayback performed a mixture of old and new material; however, he admitted he should have defaulted a bit to to his older material.
Slayback noted that the flow of a performance is especially important.
“It doesn’t flow as easily when they’re new, because when they’re older you have that experience of how to make it flow, and what works and what doesn’t work,” Slayback said. “When it’s new, you have no idea how it’s going to go. If it’s just spontaneous, people get confused, and they don’t understand. It makes it uncomfortable, and people always want to feel comfortable, especially when they go and see something.”
The comedian said he crafts his jokes based on his own personal experiences and things other people can’t necessarily relate to, describing his humor as ‘sarcastic’ and ‘lenient.’ Focusing mainly on the topic of race, Slayback emphasized how race affects the individual and poked fun at racial stereotypes.
“Just how it’s different, like how your race really influences how people look at you, and how they talk to you, and how they see you as a human being,” Slayback said. “Really about race, and how we can ignore it, like we don’t have ‘race,’ and we all see race whether we admit it or not. Stereotypes that we have for each race come from somewhere, there’s truth in all of them, but it’s not all true.”
Some stereotypes Slayback addressed included ones that he recalled being asked about, such as the assumption that those of Asian descent have exceptional intelligence or eat cats and dogs. According to Slayback, he doesn’t harbour any malicious feelings about being asked these things, and jokes about them because, to him, they’re funny.
Another major aspect of the freshman’s comedic style is his interaction with the audience. In doing so, he set the mood and made the content more relatable. At the start of his set, Slayback invited an audience member to take photos of him, posing dramatically as if he were telling a joke, saying he wanted to be able to show his mother.
“It makes it more human, it makes me more human, makes them more human,” Slayback said. “It makes them feel more comfortable with who they are, because to get up there, I have to feel comfortable with who I am.”
Describing being onstage as a ‘huge wave’ of nervousness, euphoria and adrenaline, Slayback said the only things moving during his performances are his mind and his mouth. While also dealing with the fear of not being prepared enough or going out of his comfort zone, Slayback acknowledged that he can’t please everyone who sees his act.
“Some people are going to love it, and some people are going to hate it, and some people are going to laugh and some people aren’t going to laugh,” Slayback said. “That’s just life, and everything is different. If you can laugh together, you can live together, and if you can live together, you can laugh together.”