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Second Floor Stand-Up Is One Of Penn State’s Best Kept Secrets

Like many unfortunate Penn State students, I had no idea our university is home to a stand-up comedy club. Five minutes of talking to one of its members, sophomore David Zaremsky, was all it took to convince me I needed to attend a Second Floor Stand-Up open mic event.

“Some people in the club just need to do [stand up],” Zaremsky said. “Like, you have the things you do with your friends, your academics, the things you do to get a job. And you have your things you just have to get out of you. You just have to say them.”

Now a New York City-based comedian, Brandon Scott Wolf founded the group in 2009. The small group of Second Floor Stand-Up-ers won Penn State’s Best New Student Organization Award in 2010 and they started to take off. The club has since participated in TBS and Rooftop Comedy’s National College Comedy Competition.

These days, the aspiring Louis C.K.s meet every Tuesday at 9 p.m. in 113 Carnegie Cinema, travel to cities over various school breaks to spit their flows, and host open mics in their own apartments. They’re trying to snag a regular monthly open mic spot at Webster’s.

Zaremsky explained that there are parallels between comedy and the most common majors among the group, which are in the science field.

“The club is actually [comprised of] a lot of diverse backgrounds. Probably 10 people in the club are engineers, and one member, Aaron Herschlag, is a film and engineering science double major,” he said. “It’s a thing a lot of members keep in mind when we’re applying for internships — can we be based in New York? So that they can do their aerospace engineering [jobs] in the day, then open mics at night.”

Engineering and comedy aren’t typically amalgamated into one job. While they can toy with their options for a while, eventually the dually talented Second Floor Stand-Up comedians need to decide which path to take. Zaremsky thinks about it every day.

“You wake up and it’s like, ‘it’d be really nice to get a job and be able to live somewhere, but it’d also be really nice to fuck around for five years and see what happens…and then do that,’” he said. 

Eben Parker is the one who initally roped Zaremsky into Second Floor Stand Up, and Parker is adamant about his own future plans. “His quote is ‘I know exactly what I want to do, and the only scary part is whether or not I’ll get to do it,’ so he’s one of those guys,” Zaremsky said.

As for Zaremsky, we’ll just have to see what happens. “Do I want to do this [comedy] for the rest of my life? That’s a dream, that’s a goal, that’s great — and people do. We have a lot of people apply to The Onion and Clickhole. There’s a whole rule, it’s takes like 15 years [to become an established comedian]. You just have to keep doing it. You keep applying to SNL, you keep applying to Clickhole, you’re always doing open mics, and eventually you get picked up.”

It’s not all laughs, though. The art of comedy tows a fine line between too racy and too tame. Zaremsky said the hardest part of comedy lies in the fact that the funniest things stem from real life. “I made a joke one time that was kind of racy and someone really didn’t take to it kindly. It kinda messed me up and I didn’t get on stage for a few weeks,” he admitted. “I really had to think about what I think is funny [versus] what’s worth saying for the shock value.”

Zaremsky said a lot of the members started out with little-to-no experience, get feedback after open mics, and work from there. He has also branched off into a “new and growing” SNL-esque sketch club named In Memoriam that meets Thursdays at 9 p.m. in the Chambers building. In Memoriam and Second Floor Stand-Up are looking for new talent, so if you’re just looking for a laugh in Penn State’s starved standup scene, stop by an open mic.

About the Author

Sara Civian

Sara Civian is one of Onward State's three ridiculously good looking managing editors, a hockey writer at heart, and an Oxford comma Stan. She's a senior majoring in journalism, minoring in history, and living at Bill Pickle's Tap Room. Her favorite pastimes are telling people she's from Boston, watching the Bruins, and meticulously dissecting the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album. She's seen Third Eye Blind live 14 times. If you really hate yourself, you can follow her at @SaraCivian or email her at [email protected]

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