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Saint Mary’s alumnae return to campus to perform comedy showcase

| Friday, October 6, 2017

Five comedians from Chicago will perform a stand-up comedy showcase at Saint Mary’s in Little Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

The showcase, “Belle-Y-Laughs,” will feature two Saint Mary’s alumnae: Colleen Brennan of the class of 1991 and Elyse Nylin of the class of 2010. Brennan is a pediatric speech language pathologist who graduated from the Conservatory Program at The Second City in 2001 then later received training in stand-up comedy at The Second City and Feminine Comique. Nylin is the host and producer of “You Joke Like a Girl,” a monthly all-women’s open-mic and showcase at Volumes Bookcafe in Chicago, and her sets usually contain material that is often women-focused and LGBT-friendly.

Brennan said she and Nylin contacted the College to pitch the show.

“After realizing that both Elyse and I were Saint Mary’s alums, we thought it would be great to produce a stand-up comedy show at our alma mater,” she said in an email. “Once we determined what we wanted to do, we contacted Saint Mary’s and pitched our show. The College thought our idea would work well with the fall calendar of events, so we were off and running.”

Nylin said she was passionate about returning to Saint Mary’s to perform.

“We both loved our experiences at Saint Mary’s and thought it would be an awesome way to combine our passion for comedy with the school that gave us confidence to do it,” she said in an email.   

Richard Baxter, director of campus and community events, said the timing for the event could not be better, as many students are stressed at this point in the semester.

“This falls around midterms, so it’s the perfect tension reliever,” he said. “[Students] can get a break from studying and also see what kind of paths are open to them after Saint Mary’s.”

Students, professors, South Bend residents, parents and grandparents are all welcome at Belle-Y Laughs, Brennan said.

“There is something for everyone in this show,” she said. “The age span and diverse backgrounds of the performers offer a wide comedic perspective.”

Nylin said the comedians can set an example for the audience.

“Each comic is unique in [his or her] perspective of the world and [his or her] struggles and triumphs in it,” she said. “Plus, it will be nice for the students to be able to see us as alums, and the other women succeeding in something we are passionate about.”

Brennan is excited to return to campus, she said, because it will feel like coming home.

“I always love coming back to Saint Mary’s,” she said. “Not only did I leave Saint Mary’s with an amazing educational experience, but also a bundle of great memories and a tight-knit group of friends who are like my sisters to this day. I come from a four-generation Notre Dame [and] Saint Mary’s family, so whenever I am back on campus, it feels like coming home.”

Nylin formed many close relationships at Saint Mary’s, she said.

“I loved the community that I formed [at the College] and the close relationships that I still hold dear today,” she said. “I’m actually bringing two of my best friends that are Saint Mary’s alums to the show, and meeting up with a few old professors while I’m on campus as well. Saint Mary’s was an amazing stepping stone into the world.”

Brennan said she has always been involved in the arts, and this passion has transferred to her stand-up performances.

“I have been involved in theater and music my whole life — I even sang with the Saint Mary’s Women’s Choir for two years,” she said. “Stand-up comedy allows me the unique opportunity to perform regularly while being a wife and working mother. Producing shows allows me to create opportunities for myself and other performers.”

Nylin’s love of comedy began with her father’s love of comedy, she said, and grew as she started becoming involved in the arts and eventually began working in Chicago.

“I was drawn [to] ‘Saturday Night Live’ at a young age, and my childhood was always filled with comedy,” she said. “As I got older, I was in performance arts my whole life, mostly in the forms of band [and] choir, including at Saint Mary’s. When I graduated from Saint Mary’s and moved to Chicago, I completed the improv program at Second City, and performed improv for a couple of years.”  

Nylin said she took a series of improv classes as well as stand-up comedy courses with Kelsie Huff — who will also be performing at Belle-Y-Laughs. After the courses, Nylin said, she decided to host and produce her own show.

“Stand-up comedy is much different than improv with a team,” she said. “In stand-up, it’s just you up there. It was fun playing other characters in the improv setting, but I found myself just wanting to be me. Since completion of those classes, I now host and produce my own monthly show called ‘You Joke Like a Girl.’ It’s an all-female-identifying open mic, followed by a comedy showcase. I host the show at Volumes Bookcafe which is owned and operated by two amazing sisters, Kimberly and Rebecca George. I love being able to give a space for women to say things that are important to them in a microphone, in a place owned by women.”

Baxter said this event is important because everyone should take the time to laugh.

“This is a really rough time in the country’s history, and we need to laugh,” he said.

Life is too short not to laugh, Nylin said.

“[Laughter] brings people together, it lets us process all the stuff in life, even the hard things,” she said. “I think everything needs to be laughed about. Life’s too short to be serious about everything.”

Tickets are $4 and can be purchased at the Saint Mary’s box office.

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About Gina Twardosz

Gina Twardosz is a senior English Writing and Communication Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. She's the co-editor of the Investigative Unit, a Saint Mary's social media liaison, and she occasionally writes for SMC News and Scene. Gina is a tried and true Midwesterner and yes, she does say "ope" often.

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