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BJ Novak delivers an incredible fall concert performance

By Matthew Castagna
On October 4, 2012

  • Novak with Shy Puppet. www.staticflickr.com

 

   As most of us know by now, BJ Novak, the thirty-three year old actor/writer/director performed a stand-up comedy routine for this year's annual Fall Concert event, as sponsored by SPC. Novak, best known for his portrayal of Ryan Howard on the cult-adored NBC sitcom, "The Office," put on an incredibly diverse routine that included blurbs and bits from every segment of the humor spectrum, resulting in a universally positive fan response. Although his show may not have been as technical or sophisticated as previous Marist performers, it will surely be considered a "best of" for years to come.

   One of the most notable aspects of Novak's set was his eclectic array of humorist techniques. Kicking off the set after a brief and underappreciated performance by "The HuMarists," Novak wasted little time on half-assed introductions and dove right into the first part of his act: a stream of loosely connected comical narratives.

   From threatening to murder an "OnStar" instructor mistaken for a GPS system to alternative historical takes on the Charlie Chapman look alike fiasco, it was Novak's grace and spontaneity that made these mini-stories all the more enjoyable.

   "You know, the thing I like about porn is that everyone is a star... there is no Mark Ruffalo of porn," said Novak immediately following a completely unrelated bit on the laughably unthreatening force of a so-called "triple threat." This is one of those jokes that may not have been all too funny by itself, but the fact that it came at such an unusual time, turned what could have been a couple of laughs into a stadium roar.

   "I was surprised at how quick his humor was... he gave very little breathing room which made each successive joke all the more funny because you were still feeling the effects of the previous hit," said junior Patrick Bergamo. "Maybe his jokes weren't the best but his delivery was certainly keeping the crowd entertained."

   Following these brief interpolations was a surprising transition into excerpts from Novak's "children book," titled "Wikipedia Brown And The Case Of The Missing Bicycle." As the title would suggest, Novak's fictitious short story is a satirical play on Wikipedia and how easy it is to get lost in/alter the site. It wasn't all too long, but it was a nice break and fit incredibly well with a demographic of individuals all too familiar with the slippery slope that is the online encyclopedia.

   Later on, Novak introduced the crowd to "Shy Puppet," a small, fluffy dinosaur that resembled something you'd pick up at a kindergartners' birthday party.  Novak set up shy puppet to deliver the hook of a joke, only to put him away when he was "too afraid" to answer.

   "I won't make him talk," said Novak revealing the punch line - an obvious calembour poking fun at comedians who "force" their puppets to speak.

   Novak's greatest ahcievment, however, was his personal engagement to the audience. Unlike many stand-up performers who simply run through their pre-established sketches, Novak made sure to make his act unique and theatrically intimate.

   At the beginning of the act, Novak began reading messages that were tweeted at him on Twitter aloud to the audience, calling out individuals by name. The tweets ranged from casual name-drops, to overtly sexual suggestions and the audience became more and more interested as the messages spiraled out of normalcy to ridiculousness. In a way, the audience was really poking fun at itself  - each member singled out became the new target of crowd obsession. It was a strange bonding moment that tied the Marist body and Novak into one, homogeneous group.

   Later on, audience participation capped the performance when Novak held a fifteen-minute Q&A session that flaunted his improvisational skills. Random members of the audience were selected to ask any question they wanted, allowing Novak to interact one-on-one with the crowd while showing off his wit.

   "It was thrilling, yet nerve racking," said John Hanos, a junior whose tweet was called out by Novak. "I was excited that he read my tweet but was nervous that he would call me on stage or something. Either way, it was a really cool experience and I feel like it's something your not used to seeing at most comedy shows."

   An unforgettable moment arose when a member of the show ran up to the mic to perform a dizzily mumbled version of "Ryan Started The Fire." The crowd erupted with laughter, taking enjoyment from both the unforgettable "Office" reference and the silly nature in which it was delivered. This student was invited back to the mic later to deliver a final, crowd backed encore of the song, after which Novak wittily walked off the stage.

   Overall, Novak's performance was an incredible addition to the Marist College concert resume and arguably the most well received performance since "Girl Talk" two years ago. He may not be among the stars of stand-up quite yet, but Novak proved himself more than just "the guy who plays Ryan," and successfully enthralled the student body.  


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