Tommy Johnagin, the first SOUP-sponsored comedian of winter term, entertained a receptive coffeehouse crowd last Thursday night in a performance that kept the audience laughing even after he left the stage.Johnagin, a Comedy Central veteran, received a more-than-warm response from the moderately full venue, earning laughs for nearly all his jokes. He seemed to want success for every line he’d written, so after a flopped line, he would rework his material until he’d coaxed his audience to laughter.
Dressed casually in jeans and rectangular glasses, Johnagin seemed detached and almost careless, an effective match with his cynical, dry approach to humor.
His humor lay almost entirely in his lines, and not in any physical comedy. He pointed self-deprecatingly to his dry style by mocking his lack of enthusiasm for promoting his newly-released CD: “If I were doing a commercial, I’d be like, ‘Drink Pepsi. Or whatever. I don’t care.'”
He avoided politics, current events, celebrities, and almost everything outside his experience, but he was willing to bring any aspect of his personal life to the light of his merciless humor.
His fiance, 10-year-old niece, infant nephew, and grandmother were all victims of his vicious life-view. Of his upcoming wedding, he remarked, “I’ll go because I have to.”
His observations on his grandmother’s lack of sex appeal were not universally well received, but the audience was otherwise willing to laugh at the world with him.
As personal as he was, no one was terribly concerned if, for example, his relationship with his fiancée was quite like he portrayed it. “He said that he could find plenty of people who are prettier than she is,” noted Claire Gannon. “But I bet he thinks she’s the prettiest.”
While Johnagin was unreserved in his subject matter, he had a quality unique among comedians: a clean mouth. He deliberately avoided any profanity, using instead such classic stand-ins as “fudge.”
Even in a college crowd, the choice was appreciated. “He wasn’t vulgar but he got the point across. It does take something away when a comedian is excessively profane,” commented Colman RHD Dawn Schlund. “Which actually was really effective in [getting a laugh when he did use profane language],” senior Brendan Cornwell said.
Despite Johnagin’s lack of reserve in mocking his family, he was sufficiently polite to the audience. “He didn’t heckle,” Schlund said. “And he didn’t make fun of Lawrence too much,” added Gannon.
In short, the audience was fully prepared to just enjoy his comedy, largely agreed to be witty, funny, and even hilarious.
At a relatively young age — 23, according to his website, and 24 according to him — and not far away from his college days, Johnagin was able to connect with his audience, earning the sentiment summed up by Gannon: “He should come back.