Bennett is a member of the Comedy Conglomerate at Virginia Tech (ComCon@VT for short), a student organization founded in Fall 2018 focused on comedy and creative media. You can find their work on Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook. Sam Frye, the founding member and president, started ComCon@VT after noticing a trend for competition in other performance-based campus clubs.
“I had auditioned for some other clubs my freshman year and my sophomore year. I didn’t make either of them and so it was just kind of like, well, let’s try to do something comedy related that doesn't require a competition process and callbacks.” said Sam, ComCon@VT founding member.
Sam’s idea for an audition-free creative organization evolved into the Comedy Conglomerate, which grew from a handful of members to roughly 30 people over their first year. The laid-back and welcoming atmosphere was central to ComCon@VT’s success.
“I've never been to an event or meeting or where I'm bored, because you're just surrounded by good people who like telling jokes and also like hearing jokes. So you're just surrounded by good people who are there to have a good time. It's just a wonderful experience.” said Nico, ComCon@VT performer.
As more people joined the club, the ideas kept coming. Sam, Bennett, and the rest of the group wanted to do more than stand-up comedy. They started developing projects that included a podcast, YouTube video series, and improv roasts - all while continuing to perform live comedy shows. Their momentum reflects a larger creative movement happening in Blacksburg.
This is the “spirit” behind the Studios Network, which aims to provide the tools, technologies, and support that people need to fuel their creative practice. For the members of the Comedy Conglomerate at Virginia Tech, the Media Design Studios fostered their creative renaissance as a brand-new student organization.
“Without the two Media Design Studios we wouldn't be able to do a lot of the different projects that we are able to do.” said Nico.
The Studios Network, created by the University Libraries, provides free access to advanced hardware and software, and encourages an atmosphere of play and discovery. Media Design Studio A offers technology lending for members of the Virginia Tech campus community to create or co-create media projects including: video, audio, and other multimedia. Media Design Studio B is a bookable space featuring a sound booth and a ready-to-go video recording space to record videos, audio and music, and edit or produce your project on computer workstations.
ComCon@VT members had a consistent source of equipment at no cost from Media Design Studio A, which offers a wide range of tools including the cameras and mics that ComCon uses to produce videos. Media Design Studio B gave them a space to expand their focus from stand-up to other creative outlets for comedy, such as a podcast.
As the Comedy Conglomerate grew its membership, the Studios continued to be a vital piece to their mission to make comedy inviting and appealing across Blacksburg communities.
No other service or spaces on campus offered the group access to the equipment and software they needed so they became frequent patrons in both Media Design Studios. Their favorite tools include the soundbooths for when they record any audio, as well as Adobe Premiere Pro when they need to edit videos.
Access to the Media Design Studios helped ComCon@VT in their many creative endeavors. But along with every camera, mic, and editing program they need to create and document their comedy, they also depend on a different set of skills to make connections with their audience and recruit new members. Sam and his fellow members recognized that they needed more than a sense of humor to be successful entertainers - they needed to commit to bringing people together.
When asked about how to perform stand-up and refine your act Nico said “For stand up, just your presence and just being confident on stage. I think it's a real big thing. Knowing your material and being able to write effectively. You want to be concise. Even after a short amount of time, I’ve seen comedians in our club improve incredibly just within a span of two months. It's unbelievable what you can do with just stage time and determination.”
Although ComCon@VT has several ongoing projects, a lot of their energy and time fuels live performances. Being on stage is different for each of them and several members noticed their style changing over time. Performing stand-up comedy is a skill of its own, and ComCon@VT’s comedians work really hard to shape their on-stage personas in order to connect with their audience.
“When I first started doing stand-up, I was more high-energy [because] I was trying to brush off the nerves. As I continued doing stand-up I kind of just mellowed out a little bit. I would like to think the stand-up I do now is more my style, so I don't think now I put on a persona. I'm just very sarcastic, and that's what I am as a person. But sometimes you have to put on a certain persona just to get the joke across.” said Michael.
Sam, when talking about stlyes of stand-up said that “Everyone kind of has their own style and I'd like to see people pushed out of their comfort zone a little bit and to kind of explore a different viewpoint or a different stage-not persona but like a different- I don't know. Push them out of their comfort zone enough so that they write a little bit of different material maybe each time and adapt to better audiences."
Throughout ComCon@VT’s first year, the group’s members reflected on the organization they were building and what comedy meant to them. Sam’s idea for an inclusive, welcoming group of creators and entertainers invited passionate people to explore their interests. That sense of community stayed intact while members developed new skills.
“That's the cool thing about stand-up comedy," says Bennett, "is that you can hear someone else disagree with you but be okay with it because you're still laughing. That's the beauty of it.”
“We bring people together, we just want a community where people can laugh. Also some of us want to do careers out of this, so it's a great start [laughs]. A lot of stand-up comedians start in college, or their senior year in high school.” said Michael when asked about why ComCon@VT is important.
ComCon@VT stays committed to each member’s personal development, whether they are ironing out a stand-up routine, finding creative outlets, or practicing skills for future dream jobs. The Media Design Studios meets those needs with plenty of flexibility and opportunity for new ideas.
Bennett, one of the earlier ComCon@VT members, made a series of videos with the tools in Media Design Studio A last year. He started with no experience editing, worked with Studios staff to learn the ropes, and eventually was hired to work in the Media Design Studios. In the time since he joined ComCon@VT, Bennett discovered a love for video editing and performing.
If you are interested in joining The Comedy Conglomerate at Virginia Tech, check out their GobblerConnect , or get in touch via email. You can also find them on Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook. If you’d like to get involved with the services and spaces provided by the Studios Network, visit their website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special thanks to Nico Bruno, Michael Caraballo, Sam Frye, Carlos Gil, Shashank Gupta, Kylie Lanigan, Mikaela Macdonald, Clay Mowry, and Bennett Spear for their contributions to this exhibit.
For more information about this exhibit and exhibits in the University Libraries contact Scott Fralin, email@example.com.