The Palo Alto Teen Arts Council’s “Comedy Hoedown” on Friday held an enthusiastic crowd decked out in flannels, cow onesies and cowboy hats. Audience members were left cheering at the slew of stand up performances, which included on-theme puns and skits.
TAC returned to in person events with its open mic in October; its Comedy Hoedown is one of several which are to follow in the next few months. All TAC events are free and open to highschoolers.
“Our whole basis for events is that no one expects perfection and that it’s a very kind, collaborative [and] open space where people can do whatever they want, no matter their skill level, so it’s a really low pressure environment,” Paly senior and TAC co-president Phoebe Berghout said.
While Berghout said she didn’t know she was performing until five minutes before doing so, her readings of conversations with her Italian grandma and impressions of both her grandmother and grandfather left the audience laughing.
Newcomer and Paly senior Maia Johnsson insisted she wasn’t a comedian, but gathered the confidence to give her first performance — a collection of witty puns and one-liners, like “How does the moon clip its hair? Eclipse it,” — after encouragement from her friends, TAC co-presidents Berghout and Nila-Ann Nag.
“I was a little nervous just because I didn’t have that original content from funny moments in my life,” Johnsson said. “But as soon as I got up there and got a few laughs, I was like ‘Okay, I can just keep going,’ and then more jokes just started coming out.”
Johnsson’s collection consisted of jokes she’s heard over the years.
“Some of my jokes were from jokes that my parents said were really funny or stuff that I saw on bulletin boards from my brother’s school,” she said. “And I also just had jokes from physics class and math class.”
Paly junior Alisha Bernatzki made their return to the TAC stage with a standup performance on incidents surrounding their new job as a lifeguard and their experiences with race. While Bernatzki said they “bombed,” they said they we’re glad they did it at the event, particularly because of the welcoming environment.
“Writing comes pretty easily to me. I’m not that great at delivery or having a good [comedic] stage presence, so when I [did] this, I think that’s what I was most nervous about,” Bernatzki said.
Bernatzki said they’ll also be performing at TAC’s open mic — its next event, which takes place on March 12 — but this time, instead of standup, they’ll be singing and performing a dance duet with their friend.
Paly’s improv team also performed at the hoedown with a reimagined game of Clue, where they asked audience members to brainstorm a creative location, occupation of the murderer, and murder weapon which they acted out and guessed in a game of charades.
Other acts from the night included a duet of ‘What is this feeling?’ from the musical Wicked, impressions of objects such as pebbles and lightbulbs, and a one-person skit featuring a farmer, a cow and an artichoke.
“Once you’re [up] there, everyone’s just out there looking at you and giving you their full attention, and you’re just giving your jokes and being you; I think it’s just such a fun and unique experience,” Johnsson said.