‘An Evening of Comedy’ hosts three rising Hollywood comedians

Three rising comedians warm up SU crowd at winter show

Vanessa Bayer, Sabrina Jalees and John Early discuss college life, career and coming out Friday night.
Published: March 2, 2019
Vanessa Bayer at the University Union Comedy Show on March 1, 2019
"Saturday Night Live's" Vanessa Bayer headlines University Union's winter comedy show on Friday in Goldstein Auditorium.

“The people of Duke are a) trash b) shady and c) sketch,” John Early said to a cheering crowd of Syracuse University students. “F— Duke.” This was one of the many “truths” spoken to a full audience in Goldstein Auditorium on Friday night at Syracuse University’s “An Evening of Comedy,” started off by comedians Sabrina Jalees and John Early and headlined by SNL actress Vanessa Bayer.

Jalees is currently a writer for upcoming seasons of Netflix’s Big Mouth and TBS’s Search Party, and you might have seen her 15 minute special on Netflix’s The Comedy Lineup last summer. She talked to the audience about her experience having a baby with her wife and coming out as gay to her Muslim family.  “Everyone is gay,” Jalees said. “People that hate gays are the gayest ones.”

Alternative Text
Actor and comic John Early takes the stage at "An Evening of Comedy."

Actor and comedian John Early talked about a range of subjects including his college major in theatre, anal sex, and the Trump administration. He concluded by performing a Britney Spears song while a student from the audience beat-boxed.

In Bayer’s time on Saturday Night Live from 2010 to 2017, she’s shown her talent for stellar impersonations of Jacob the Barmitzvah Boy, Miley Cyrus, and a cheery housewife in a hilarious faux Superbowl commercial. She also had a starring role in the romantic comedy Ibiza last year. Bayer started as a biology major in college, but she wanted to be on television in some way, so she later changed her major to communication. “Communication majors basically study the history of bullshit,” Bayer said to the crowd. “Communication is basically the Catholic Church of majors.” After college, she moved to Chicago to work for an ad agency.

But her worst job was as a drama instructor at an overnight camp, prompting her to do two impressions of whiny campers that sent the audience rolling with laughter. Eventually, she found a comedy agent in Chicago who called her “not gorgeous, but ‘quirky.’” One of her first auditions was for a Planters peanuts ad that was looking to hire an “ugly woman.” Bayer went on to critique several commercials she did, including the absurdity of Crest’s “Tissue test” concept and the woman in a Lindt chocolate commercial who eats only a single truffle after an exhausting day.

“Everyone knows that emotional eating is about quantity, not quality,” Bayer said.

Bayer played a Vistaprint business cards ad for the audience, which included a line about how good a thick card feels in the customer’s hands. “I’m sorry, are we still talking about business cards?” Bayer asked the laughing students.

Bayer also talked about a more serious subject of having leukemia in high school.

“A lot of people gave me presents, and I wrote thank-you cards,” she said. “Just because you have cancer doesn’t mean you can be rude.”

Her family eventually caught on to her using her leukemia as an excuse to get out of doing things, and referred to it as “dropping the L bomb.” Her dad once got out of a speeding ticket after telling the cop about her cancer, she said.

Bayer ended her set by showing a video clip the media found and released before she started on SNL. In it, Bayer is a young 24-year-old answering cringey date questions for Comcast’s Dating On Demand. She’s come a long way since then. 

After the show, Jalees and Early doled some advice to the audience about people wanting to get involved in comedy.

“Just do it,” Jalees said. “Like everything in life, when you realize something is calling you, answer it in whatever small step you can muster.”

Early agreed with Jalees, noting how hard the process is.

“Try to find what makes you authentically funny around your friends, around your family, and try to exploit that onstage,” Early said. “The longer you do it the more you’re like, ‘Oh when I’m me, that’s when I’m succeeding.’”

SU Vanessa Bayer

Sabrina Jalees talks at "An Evening of Comedy"

SU Vanessa Bayer

The two comedians answered questions after the University Union hosted event.