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Pub turned Comedy Club: Screech at CJ’s

Blair Chemidlin | Thursday, February 24, 2011

Even long after football season has ended, CJ’s Pub regularly packs a full house on Friday and Saturday nights at its new location on Michigan Street. Tuesday night, however, the Pub turned itself into a comedy club for ages 18 and older, hosting stand-up comedians Jeffrey Danson and Dustin Diamond, formerly Screech.

Around 150 people turned out for the event, sitting around tables and munching on popcorn, waiting for the show to begin. Many Notre Dame football players were in attendance to support teammate Jonas Gray, who was set to take the stage for an opening act. Gray, who has performed once before at an open-mic, saw the show as an opportunity to explore his newfound hobby.

The DJ played the latest Black Eyed Peas and Usher hits, but the crowd was there for the entertainment, not the bar scene.

An hour after the 10 p.m. start time for the event, Danson, who is coming out with a culinary comedy rap album, began the show free-styling to the beat of Gucci Mane’s “Freaky Girl.” He pumped up the crowd with his self-deprecating humor (“I’m a G6 / I’m a fat boy, and I eat Twix”) and nods to audience members (“I score touchdowns like Mike Floyd”). With personal stories from summer camp and college, he had the crowd laughing heartily.

Danson describes himself as “straight polo” and urges comedy and food lovers alike (who doesn’t like food?) to visit his website at thatveronicavaughn.com. His words of wisdom for the Notre Dame community: “Practice your passion until it’s your profession.”

Before the show, Danson helped Gray polish his material and gave him some last-minute pointers about performing. Gray said Danson advised him “to just have fun with it.”

When Danson introduced Gray, many stood and cheered as he ran out and high-fived friends and fans in the front row. Gray kept the audience roaring with laughter for the next 20 minutes as he talked about his experiences with online dating, Valentine’s Day and his pet peeves. Many of his jokes hit home with audience members. When Gray turned the attention on one man who was laughing uncontrollably in the corner, the man explained his laughter: “’cause you’re telling the truth!”

Perhaps the highlight of Gray’s performance was the brief dance-off between Gray and audience-member/teammate Kapron Lewis-Moore. Gray and Lewis-Moore’s booty-shaking moves to Ester Dean’s “Drop It Low” illustrated Gray’s pet peeve No. 8: when people engage in one-on-one dance-offs at the club.

By 11:30 p.m., when Diamond took over the mic, the crowd had already had plenty of fun. Diamond started out strong with comical references to his roles on “Celebrity Fit Club” and “Saved by the Bell.” He joked about how most people do stand-up comedy in hopes of getting a TV show, but he did it the other way around.

Diamond has grown up a lot since his days playing Screech on “Saved by the Bell.” Far from his nerdy persona on the show, Diamond entertained a South Bend crowd with jokes that would have shocked and repulsed his quirky high school character.

Diamond’s act quickly veered into his more characteristic, vulgar material that spanned from somewhat milder bathroom humor to obscene sex jokes. Many audience members were unsure of how to react to some of his raunchier jests; a combination of disgust and laughter could be heard after most punch lines, the repulsion often coming mostly from females, the amusement from men.

The explicit content of the show deemed it certainly not for everyone, but Diamond’s outrageous stage presence kept most crowd members entertained, even if they found the jokes revolting. His words often incited people to turn to each other, asking, “Did he really just say that?” There certainly was not a dull moment during Diamond’s performance.

After the show, Diamond revealed that the first sports clothing he ever owned was Irish gear.

“I visited campus when I was younger and spent something like $2,400,” he said.

Still an Irish fan? Maybe. He said he wants to get Jonas Gray’s autograph before he has to pay for it. Diamond was impressed by how talented the new comedian is, as was the audience, and said Gray should really stick with it.