Weekday live entertainment is not generally known for its soaring quality or widespread attendance. This is evident in the absence of a #HillHappenings email for the Monday to Wednesday lineup. Even the rowdiest Oles rarely turn up on a Monday night (don’t take that as a challenge).
Nonetheless, everyone needs a study break now and then, and the Muslim Student Association’s LIVE Comedy and Music event held the evening of March 29 could not have better served this role.
Given the event’s low profile, I must admit to having modest expectations. However, these were shattered immediately as the first act began. The evening opened with a student-musician named Salvarez, an experimental hip-hop and dance performer who skillfully covered and danced to several songs before performing two original works.
Beginning with a cover of “Get Down Low,” Salvarez created an animated atmosphere through high-quality beats and background music, with exceptional rapping and dancing skills layered on top. Salvarez’s dancing skills were truly impressive, especially when he performed a choreographic interpretation of “Billy Jean,” summoning Michael Jackson’s signature moves with a natural, charismatic ease.
After covering these two pieces, Salvarez performed a work of his own about his ex-girlfriend texting him at four in the morning. While his rapping flow and stage presence ensured that it was enjoyable, the fact that he wrote the song days before was evident. The first two verses of the song were extremely mediocre, although the third verse partially redeemed the song’s forgettability.
However, his last song, an original single titled “I Like the Sunshine,” was a marvelous finale to his performance. The piece was about the beauty of the sunshine and the wonderful nature of spring, and was thus extremely fitting for the current campus mood.
Salvarez deftly performed the song with lyrical prowess and musicality, redeeming any slumps in his otherwise outstanding performance.
After Salvarez, the evening fell into a bit of a rut, with a funny but unimpressive stand-up act by a guy named Jordan. Jordan made several funny jokes about people stereotyping his Asian appearance and saying idiotic things based on ill-founded assumptions. For example, he told one story about when a man approached him on a bus and told him that he killed his ancestors in Vietnam, despite the fact that Jordan is Filipino, not Vietnamese. However, despite several humorous stories and jokes initially, the act stagnated in its second half. While Jordan’s stand-up routine was occasionally hilarious, there wasn’t enough consistency between his jokes. His routine was very hit-or-miss, with wild fluctuations between jokes that resonated and those that fell flat.
Luckily, Jordan was only the opening comedian. After his act, New Jersey comedian Danish Maqbool took the stage for a comedy routine that deftly combined humorous jokes and stories with biting social commentary.
Maqbool’s routine was primarily anecdotal and observational, with a heavy focus on his experience as a Muslim-American of Pakistani heritage.
For example, Danish told one story about the time he and his friend bought only one pass for Six Flags amusement park, because the employees at the park couldn’t tell the difference between Danish and his Pakistani friend in the picture. While humorous, this story also highlights the racial ignorance of many Americans.
This combination of anecdotal humor with an underlying social message was a key characteristic of Maqbool’s comedy routine. From describing when he was called a “terrorist” at 9 a.m., to highlighting examples of innocent racism in our society, Maqbool’s jokes made the audience laugh, but also provoked reflection on race and religion in our society.
Not all of his jokes related to Islam and being of Pakistani descent: Maqbool told several random anecdotes for the pure hilarity of them, and told other stories about his upbringing in a lower-income household. This content versatility was a key factor in the success of his routine, in addition to his stage confidence and well-structured pacing.
Maqbool capped off a wonderful night with humor ranging from the outrageous to the relatable. He ended a well-run reprieve from the stresses of the day, an event worthy of a Friday night prime-time showing. I highly recommend Maqbool’s stand-up routine and MSA’s event as a whole, an evening replete with laughter and music that I would happily attend again.