This year’s show features headlining comedian Mike Birbiglia. An award-winning stand-up comic and a Shrewsbury native, Birbiglia has starred in several films, including Sleepwalk with Me, a film based on his one-man off-Broadway show of the same name. He has performed in memorable Comedy Central and television appearances and is about to launch his 2014 tour “Thank God for Jokes.”
“This is the big bang at the end of Winter Carnival,” says Yael Rosenblum, a co-chair on SocComm’s music and comedy committee. Coinciding with finals every year, Winter Carnival’s events offer some diversion and the Big Show is always an anticipated event, says Rosenblum.
“Having people laugh is the best thing in the world,” says Ahmad Abojaradeh, also a co-chair of the music and comedy committee. And choosing the performer is a broad task, he says. The music and comedy committee members, nearly two dozen in all, discuss performers among themselves, but also query the larger SocComm group and then reach out to the student population. “We try to base it not on our opinions but those of everyone else,” he says. “Everyone is different with their style and how they look at things.”
Comedian Birbiglia, who now hails from Brooklyn, says he always enjoys doing shows near his hometown, and he especially likes a college crowd. “When someone shows up at your college,” he says, “you never forget that. College is when I found comedy, and I can relate to where they are right now.” And where college students are in their lives is always fodder for material, too. “I like the spontaneity,” Birbiglia says. “It is like the dress rehearsal and the final performance all in one.”
SocComm is responsible for all kinds of campus events including Winter Carnival and the spring event QuadFest. The two Big Shows during the year, a comedy focused show in winter and a more musical one in spring, are highlights of the year. Last spring’s Big Show concert was also a fundraiser and brought in nearly $5,000 for WPI’s Relay for Life. They are always planned during the last week of a term, just when student stress is typically high, so they offer diversion from the grind.
The organization works hard to provide enough activities and entertainment that will appeal to everyone on campus throughout the year, says Rosenblum. SocComm members vote on possible events and also survey students so different perspectives are represented. “People actually have a say in what they want to see,” says Rosenblum, “and they generally just have a good time.”
Organizers agree the timing of Big Show is perfect. Coming on the Friday before finals week begins, this is a chance for a little levity, they say. “We want to make sure people have an outlet,” says Rosenblum. Abojaradeh agrees. “We want them to laugh as much as they can,” he says, “because after that we are all stuck in finals week.”