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Wild West Comedy Tour’ wildly funny

Rama Gottumukkala | Monday, October 10, 2005

Twenty minutes after the din of thunderous applause and a standing ovation had subsided, Vince Vaughn emerged from behind the stage. The bags under his eyes, made famous in films like “Old School” and “Wedding Crashers,” were as deeply etched into his face as ever. Fans swarmed around him, clamoring for autographs and photos with the star, and he obliged as many requests as he could.

It was the kind of throng that might have gathered around the set of his latest Hollywood blockbuster. Instead, the scene was Stepan Center, 20 minutes after performing in front of a packed house in the latest stop in his nationwide “Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show” tour.

Accompanied by national touring comedians Bret Ernst, Sebastian Maniscalco, Ahmed Ahmed and John Caparulo – all comics from the famed Los Angeles Comedy Store – Vaughn emceed an impressive comedy extravaganza fueled by a night of entertaining skits, hilarious stand-up routines and, in general, playing to the whims of a crowd eager for more.

Trading off between Vaughn’s pre-planned skits and the comedians’ stand-up routines, the show breezed along, as Vaughn and the comedians kept the audience laughing for the entirety of the two hour performance.

“I had such a good time at the show,” junior Laura Stankiewicz said. “I love to laugh and all of the people on the tour were so funny. There was no one that didn’t please the crowd.”

Walking out in a sharp gray suit, Vaughn broke the ice early by thanking the crowd for a warm welcome back to the campus where he got his first major film role – on the set of “Rudy” – and commented on the Irish’s successful early-season football campaign.

“Vince Vaughn is very personable,” Stankiewicz said. “He was just so comfortable on stage improving, inviting students on stage and interacting with the audience.”

Throughout the night, Vaughn kept bringing special guests on stage to help him act out well-rehearsed skits, all actors who he’d worked with on various projects in his career. Two of those guests were Justin Long and Keir O’Donnell, who played supporting roles in “Dodgeball” and “Wedding Crashers,” respectively. For his skit with Long, Vaughn encouraged volunteers from the crowd to come up and test Long’s dodgeball skills. Long played the part well, even donning a plastic, gold Notre Dame helmet for the skit.

“I really enjoyed all of the unexpected special guests,” Stankiewicz said. “I didn’t know before hand which celebrities were going to be there, so it was all a surprise to me.”

O’Donnell came on stage and drew caricatures on a big easel, a nod toward his role as a creepy teenage painter in “Wedding Crashers,” Vaughn’s last film. Long and O’Donnell also joked along with Vaughn and bantered back and forth with dialogue from their respective films, much to the delight of the fans.

“[Vaughn] seemed like a very down to earth guy,” Stankiewicz said. “And because he was having an awesome time, it pumped the crowd up even more.”

Vaughn even brought out Peter Billingsley, who played Ralphie Parker, a spunky grade-school kid in “A Christmas Story.” Billingsley is currently producing “The Break Up,” Vaughn’s next film project, but the pair worked together many years ago in a low budget after-school special. Vaughn entertained the crowd with a few hilarious clips from the special on steroid abuse.

While the opening acts and skits were impressive, most of the laughter for the night was generated by the four comics. Putting together diverse routines, Ernst, Maniscalco, Ahmed and Caparulo had little trouble keeping the audience engaged. Each comic received a warm introduction from Vaughn before proceeding with a 15 to 20 minute routine.

“I thought the show was well done and most of the comedians had great material,” sophomore Joe Runde said. “Sebastian, the second comedian, was my favorite. He seemed well rehearsed and I liked his material.”

No topic was off limits, as everything from cell phones, iPods, techno music, ethnic stereotypes, airport security and world politics found their way into the comedians’ routines. The comics dug into various topics, both commonplace and bizarre, in performances that showed why they were hand-picked by Vaughn to perform in front of sold out shows around the country.

“[Vaughn] seemed pretty relaxed and it seemed like he had good relationships with the other comedians,” Runde said. “They worked well together.”

While wrapping up the evening’s events, Vaughn thanked the crowd for his enthusiastic reception, and promised that it wouldn’t be the last time in Notre Dame for the now world-famous filmstar.

And just to rile up the crowd one final time, Vaughn encouraged a win for the Irish against Southern California – words that would have fit right in to the small football film where Vaughn got his start.