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The Daily Tar Heel

Comedy stars dish out industry tips

Even comedian Lewis Black admits his abhorrence for career networking. "I hate that word - networking - I hate doing it," Black said. "I'd rather be a hooker." But at this year's Carolina Comedy Festival, guest presenters managed to make even an hourlong session on how to break into the business of comedy writing full of laughs. With the help of UNC alumni turned A-list funnymen, cast members and producers from "The Daily Show," a nationally acclaimed comic strip author and others, organizers said this year's festival drew the largest crowd in the event's history. Mallory Cash, comedy committee chairwoman for the Carolina Union Activities Board - the organization putting on the event - said that although the festival draws big names in comedy to UNC, entertainment is not always its central agenda. "There's a lot of different parts to the festival, but I'd say the overall goal is still to let students learn about things that they haven't learned before," Cash said. "It's to help students learn from the people who know how to do these things the best." This year marked the fifth time the festival has been held, and organizers estimated its cost to be $25,000. Beginning Thursday and wrapping up Saturday with "Lewis Black and Friends," a performance that sold out Memorial Hall to students before general public tickets were made available, the festival has differed significantly in programming and attendance even since 2007. "There were 20 students doing stand-up last night," Black said Friday, about the Student Stand-Up Competition. "It just goes to show the depth of the illness is growing in Chapel Hill." And while many of the festival's attendees were audience members at Black's main-stage show, others came seeking more than comic relief. "This is really serious for me," said Tom Thriveni, a sophomore who attended Saturday's program, The Ins and Outs of Comedy Writing. "Anyone can meet famous people; I could go over and give Rob Riggle a high-five right now. But it's a great experience to be able to hear from people like him about how to handle internships and getting a job." Thriveni, who said he attended the event to learn more about obtaining his dream job, said hearing from "The Daily Show" writers and correspondents like Riggle made him more aware of what potential employers are looking for. At the event, UNC alumnus Bryan Tucker explained how he worked the stand-up circuit in New York City for years before becoming a writer for "Saturday Night Live." Riggle echoed Tucker's sentiments and explained to students how working up toward his own dream job created inspiration for comedic sketches. "Initially, I wanted it all and I wanted it fast," Riggle said. "But if you get it too fast, you won't be prepared. You have to have that crappy job to know what it's like to have an awful boss. You get that life experience to draw from to get the content you need to be funny." Contact the Arts Editor at

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