On the small stage of the Underground Coffeehouse, three student comedians discovered their comedic chops.
One of those comedians, junior Cameron Baldwin, recalled his introduction to stand-up comedy.
Baldwin began performing stand-up comedy at an open mic night at the Underground Coffeehouse two years ago. Since then, he’s performed at venues such as the Old Main Theater, the Performing Arts Center, The Upfront Theatre and various open mic nights around Bellingham.
He was inspired to start pursuing comedy during a rough patch in community college where he was frequently in and out of the hospital.
During this time, he watched comedian Mike Birbiglia’s stand-up specials and was uplifted by them. Listening to Birbiglia’s stories made Baldwin believe he could pursue comedy.
For Baldwin, performing stand-up comedy is a form of self-expression for his high-energy personality. To write his material, he draws from his personal experiences and highlights the absurdity of it.
“I’ve had seizures that started in high school and I make fun of those,” he said. “Because I have a heart condition, I compare it to a fainting goat in one of my bits.”
Baldwin said doing stand-up comedy and letting it be his outlet was similar to therapy.
“It’s a good outlet,” he said. “I’ve found it really helps me clear my mind and get my life out there.”
For senior Stefan Matusak, the president of the Stand-up Comedy Klub, the Underground Coffeehouse is where he was introduced to stand-up comedy.
Matusak was born and raised in Vancouver, Washington. Matusak describes his hometown as a transitory area.
“It’s the Greyhound bus station of a city,” he joked.
Mutusak’s first time performing stand-up was at the Underground Coffeehouse his freshman year during an open mic night. There was an open slot available, so he decided to go for it.
Matusak’s set consisted of typical college freshman subject matter: dorm bathrooms, dining hall pizza and even his mom.
“It was a bad set,” he said. “It was a really bad set, actually.”
While his debut performance was unsuccessful, he said the idea of improving his act kept him coming back to the stage.
“With every stand-up set you will get better,” Matusak said. “The failure sets are the ones that are going to keep you going.”
Matusak did keep going. He has performed around Western’s campus, from the Viking Union Multipurpose Room to the Old Main Theater. He’s also performed at house shows and other open mic nights around Bellingham and Portland.
Matusak said being a part of S.U.C.K. at Western allowed him to meet other comedians and learn about different venues around Bellingham.
Baldwin is also a member of S.U.C.K. and, being from the small town of Langley, Washington, said if he didn’t come to Western, he probably would have never tried stand-up comedy.
“Coming from a small town and coming from a place where there’s no one else your age, it’s really nice to get somewhere where there’s opportunity,” Baldwin said.
Junior Andrea Entz also came to Western for the opportunity to perform.
She started performing stand-up comedy at the end of the last school year and, although she’s relatively new to the stand-up comedy scene, she’s no stranger to the stage. Entz has been performing in productions at Western since she started as a freshman.
Like Matusak and Baldwin, Entz found her comedic prowess at the Underground Coffeehouse. She was originally there to watch her friends perform at the open mic night, but then they convinced her to go on stage, sparking her interest in stand-up comedy.
Coming from a background in theater, Entz likes stand-up because she has more freedom when performing.
“I like writing my own material, being able to perform it and feel natural on stage,” she said.
With the encouragement S.U.C.K. provided her, after only two performances at the Underground Coffeehouse, Entz began branching out and performing at open mic nights at The Shakedown, The Green Frog and The Upfront Theatre.
“By Western providing that opportunity for us to all have that camaraderie and supportive environment for fellow comics, that right there triggered my start,” Entz said.
The Stand-Up Comedy Klub hosts open mic nights every other Thursday at the Underground Coffeehouse. When there’s no open mic night, the club hosts meetings and workshops in Humanities 108.
Although these three Western comedians come from different places and backgrounds, they can all trace their comical origins back to a small coffee shop three floors below the Viking Union. Now, they’re performing in front of bigger shows around Western, Bellingham and the state of Washington.