esuit universities claim to do a lot more than just provide students with a degree that will land them a seat in an office with a doorman in Midtown Manhattan. Boston College specifically defines “student formation”—a lofty admissions term that is short-hand for producing graduates who can carry a conversation and behave like normal human beings in society—as one of its primary missions as a higher education institution.
In the 2019 institutional spot, BC identifies itself as “The Leader in Formative Education,” four words that mean almost nothing to your future employer. Although this claim sounds like it was workshopped in a PR focus group, this holistic approach to academia also gives students the opportunity to hone their wits, situational awareness, and big-picture thinking, all of which easily lend themselves to comedy.
Georgetown University—otherwise known as every BC student’s first choice—famously educated Big Mouth creators Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, while Chris Farley (Saturday Night Live, Tommy Boy) attended Marquette University. The classic BC example is, of course, Amy Poehler, BC ’93, who was a member of My Mother’s “First-Ever-College-Comedy-Group” Fleabag during her four years on the Heights.
In November 1992, Poehler told The Heights that she had “never done anything like improv before Fleabag.” On a whim, she decided to sign up. It was a spontaneous decision that put her on a path from the O’Connell House to 30 Rock. Whether it’s the Catholic guilt, the delayed social progress detailed in a 1992 letter to the editor signed onto by Poehler, or the acid in the Holy Water at your resident director’s weird 11 p.m. mass, Jesuit institutions can be incubators for comedic minds.
The Heights spent the past month vigilantly scouring Facebook groups, club rosters, and reader nominations to pull together a definitive list of the funniest campus comedians. The next Poehler walks among us, and they might even be on this list—or maybe they are the person who declined to be a part of the feature despite our gracious courting. Or maybe they didn’t even make the short list for this year’s feature. What do we know anyway? We’re just a college newspaper that still prints in 2019.
Shea Rulon, CSOM ’20
he name on her birth certificate is Shea Rulon, but you can call her “Sheanal” or “Shea from Sex”—at least if you’re a friend from high school or a member of The New England Classic. Rulon is the Marketing and Business Director as well as a staff writer for the Classic, and she describes her personal brand of humor as “ironically narcissistic,” but her jokes often veer off into the realm of the risqué.
“I was like known in high school as the girl who makes a lot of jokes about anal,” Rulon, who grew up in Milton, Mass. and attended high school in New Hampshire, said. “I forget that people do it in real life, so to me [it’s] a hilarious phenomenon.”
Unlike her competitive ski racing career, Rulon’s fascination with raunchy humor didn’t end in high school. In the May 2017 print issue of the Classic, Rulon penned a column titled “Opinion: I Want To F—k Gasson.” In the column, Rulon describes Gasson’s carnal magnetism, calling the building “the edifice of [her] wildest dreams” and the “most beautifully erected building in the world.”
While the Classic typically maintains a layer of anonymity by omitting bylines from articles, the column appeared in print next to a picture of Rulon smiling with the building apparently photoshopped in the background. Rulon looks back on the piece fondly, and identified it as her best headline to date.
Although Rulon typically disperses her humorous musings from the comfortable seclusion of the Classic’s “office” in Carney, she has recently stepped into the public eye for Classic events: Rulon gave a TED Talk-style presentation at NECTalks last semester. Her presentation was titled “The Power of Poetry” and included a poem about Spencer (Jerry Trainor) from iCarly, which Rulon confessed she wrote the night before.
Proudly donning the Classic’s sandwich logo on her shirt, Rulon opened up about the intricacies of her unique sense of humor. We met at CoRo Café despite it being filled with freshmen and their families who were visiting for Parents Weekend. Regardless of her surroundings, quick wit comes naturally to Rulon.
Her vibrant sense of humor was identified by those around her early on. In fourth grade, Rulon’s friend Caroline told her she was the “funny friend” in their grade school posse, while Caroline was “popular with the girls” and their friend Ashley was “popular with the guys.” Ever since, Rulon has honed her talents and taken comfort in being able to “commiserate” with those around her. Coping through comedy with others is what drew her to the Classic during her freshman year. Her contributions include everything from riffs on Espresso Your Faith Week to risking her rapport with Gasson-goers in the name of commitment to the bit.
“You need to see it happen—you can’t read about [her humor],” Joey Reda, a staff writer for the Classic and CSOM ’21, said. “You need to see it to believe it.”
“It’s like watching a movie but instead of watching the movie—like it’s not good if you just hear how the movie was,” Dan DiCocco, the graphics editor for the Classic and MCAS ’21, said. “You need to watch the movie for yourself.”
“What if I’m like a really good writer?” said I, a journalist who’s suddenly inserting herself into this otherwise entirely objective story.
“It still wouldn’t do it justice,” DiCocco said.
Sam Harmon, MCAS ’21
f you have attended a My Mother’s Fleabag show in the past year, you know who Sam Harmon is. Harmon is the guy who knows a lot about history: During “185 Blanks Walk Into a Bar,” a game in which Fleabaggers have to riff off jokes about a given topic, Harmon always finds a way to bring it back to wars.
For the comedy group’s October 2018 café, Harmon channeled the intense accent and demeanor of a Polish pilot who had been reunited with his family after the fall of the Berlin Wall multiple times throughout the night. It sounds dry—and Harmon is the first to admit that—but between the wainscotted walls of Gasson 305, it’s a potent form of highbrow humor. This academic approach to comedy is reflected in the way Harmon describes what exactly makes a person funny.
“It’s kinda like a literacy,” Harmon said. “It’s like a type or style of thinking that you can develop like anything else I think.”
If comedy is a scholarly pursuit, Harmon is an A student. Between descriptions of his personal experience on stage, Harmon perfectly recited quotes from Oh, Hello, a Broadway show about two older eccentric New Yorkers written and performed by Nick Kroll and John Mulaney. For two relatively high profile comedians, it’s an unusually niche performance abounding with off-the-cuff one liners about polio and mezuzahs, but the show has garnered a cult following since its Netflix release. Harmon’s ability to effortlessly quote the play acts as an informal diploma—proof of his dedication to his studies.
A champion of dry, situational humor, Harmon also gave high praise to Nathan Fielder, the creator and star of Nathan For You, a show Harmon called “life-changing.” Because Nathan For You requires Fielder to maintain composure even in the most precarious of situations—whether conducting a press conference for Dumb Starbucks, a fake company that went viral, or orchestrating an airport luggage mix-up just to have an embarrassing story for a late night appearance. Fielder displays the same stoicism required of improv performers on stage: Total character immersion and outlandish imagination are prerequisites for getting crowds to laugh.
Harmon, who is majoring in English and political science, got his start in improv comedy when he was in high school in St. Louis, Mo. Harmon attended St. Louis University High School, where he was in a sketch comedy club and participated in two improv shows.
“It was basically hanging out with those [comedy club] guys that completely rewired my brain,” Harmon said. “I had always been like a goofy kid or whatever, but I didn’t know how to actually be funny.”
When Harmon came to BC, Fleabag and sketch comedy group Hello…Shovelhead! were already on his radar, but it was up to him to court the comedic incumbents to gain entry into one of the clubs, both of which have gained a reputation for being highly selective. According to Harmon, it wasn’t his improv chops that got him a spot on the team. After looking at the notes Fleabag members took during his audition, Harmon noticed a common theme among them: the J.Crew pineapple print shorts he chose to wear to auditions.
“I thought he looked kinda goofy,” Brendan McGinty, a director of Fleabag and MCAS ’20, said. “I knew he was like an ROTC guy, and in his callback—with the pineapple shorts—he did not fit the mold. I was like this kid, there’s something off with this kid, and turns out I was right.”
Maya Rao, MCAS ’21
n the 21st century, Malibu Barbie has a lot more to worry about than just the #BodyPosi movement: @thrftstorebrbie (Maya Rao) is on the rise. Her Twitter handle originates from a nickname her friend Pat Carpenter, MCAS ’21, spontaneously gave her during her freshman year. Ever since, Rao’s online presence has become a staple of BC Twitter, a small but loud faction on the social media platform. From chirping sorority girls to satirizing BC’s well-meaning but terribly executed brand of woke culture, Rao harvests humor from all areas of campus and serves it to her 500-plus followers in 280 characters or less.
“I think good tweets are—I hate to sound like Jennifer Lawrence, like ‘#relatable’—but like stuff that a bunch of people can be like, ‘Oh yeah, I totally thought that before,” Rao said.
Rao, who grew up in Chapel Hill, N.C., identified a tweet about the struggles of girlhood as her best: Rao tweeted, “Half of girlhood is shaming your friends for the boys they like,” on Aug. 19. The tweet has 17 likes—a solid amount given the site’s constant outpour of random musings, even in local circles—because it’s true.
But unlike the majority of the people you meet on the internet, Rao is funny (and #relatable) IRL—she is, like Harmon, a member of My Mother’s Fleabag. At Fleabag’s March 2019 café, Rao momentarily stole the show by initiating a “No more men!” chant that was quickly adopted by Fleabaggers and audience members alike. For Rao, being funny is about being shameless and over-the-top.
“One of the big things that makes someone funny is being able to laugh at themselves,” Rao said. “I think if you can’t be the source of humor either by making fun of yourself, or being willing to be the person that everyone laughs at, [then] it’s hard to be funny.”
“You can tell that Maya is like a really thoughtful, a really caring, a really intelligent person when you talk to her,” McGinty said. “But she’s also willing to goof around and poke fun at herself and others in a way that’s—I don’t know—it’s just refreshing to be around.”
Luckily for Rao, her life is full of laughable moments. Maloney elevator rides are typically awkward for everyone involved—Should I ask them what floor, or just assume it’s the fourth? What if no one else has airpods in and everyone can hear me listening to the Jonas Brothers right now? Where am I supposed to look? The floor? The doors? Rao’s ride with a friend took a turn for the worst when she tried to lighten the mood by jumping as the elevator took off, but she miscalculated her footing and fell onto the ground in her dress, exposing her underwear to the other passengers.
Rao claims that her hidden talent is “not making the team”—she was even cut from her middle school’s volleyball team—so when she was accepted into Fleabag she was a little surprised. But even the manner in which Rao was accepted to Fleabag was somewhat embarrassing. When Rao, then a freshman, auditioned for the comedy group, she accidentally sat at the table with the sign-in sheet, leading auditioners to think that she was already a member of the club and ask her for instructions.
“By the end of it, I was like, ‘Yeah just take a seat, sign in. I’m not even in the group,’” Rao said.
Nicole Garcia, MCAS ’22
wkward humor is likely the most divisive form of comedy: For the person on the other end of the interaction, awkward moments are more likely to feel more uncomfortable than funny as they unfold. But for an independent onlooker, awkward humor can be cathartic, especially for those who have found themselves in uncomfortable situations as a result of their own doing—i.e. those who have responded “You too” to a Plex employee who is just trying to wish you a good workout. Nicole Garcia is both an initiator and purveyor of awkward humor.
Donning a t-shirt with a picture of Nathan Fielder in his infamous big suit printed across the chest, Garcia unfurled the inner-workings of her unconventional style of satire in the mid-afternoon glow of the ever-dusty Heights office. She broke it down into three distinct parts: dark humor, ironic humor, and “I don’t know how you would describe Nathan Fielder’s humor, but making situations awkward, I guess.” What all three have in common is a distinctive element of self-indulgence. All humor is subjective, but these styles of comedy are derived from the depths of one’s personal taste and are almost always self-referencial.
Garcia has other quirks that are mainly dependent on her own whims: The sophomore computer science major runs a TikTok account where she posts utterly strange videos.
“I guess I’m okay with doing weird stuff in public in terms of like if I’m filming a video or if I’m making a TikTok, I’m just—I do it in public,” Garcia said. “I guess I’m just good at ignoring the weird looks I get from people.”
“I don’t have many followers, so then I don’t get many likes on my videos but I still post stuff,” Garcia said. “I post stuff that makes me laugh.”
Aside from her burgeoning TikTok account, Garcia also manages a considerably popular One Direction fanpage on Instagram. Originally a personal “finsta” (fake-Insta, for all the parents that should have stopped reading this feature a long time ago), @snoopdoggharry was started in 2014 and now has over 3,000 followers. It’s tough work in 2019—the band has been on hiatus since March 2015 when Zayn Malik left the band—but someone has to do it. A recent post on her Instagram page announces that Garcia won a radio contest that granted her the “Once in a Lifetime” (Four stans know) chance to meet Niall Horan in New York next week.
“IM [sic] MEETING NIALL HORAN!!!” Garcia wrote. “I AM MEETING HIM WHAT THEIFKCKCF [sic] THANK GOD!! NEVER GIVE UP ON UR [sic] DREAMS.”
Her commitment to the band is unwavering, even after the members of One Direction decided to go their separate ways: Garcia waited 40 hours in line to see Harry Styles on SNL.
In the time since the band announced its break, however, Garcia assumed the role of meme curator to keep her followers engaged. One recent post is a screenshot of a tweet in which the user declares his answer to the question “How do you plan on paying back your student loans?” is “If God don’t do it, it just won’t get done.”
“Her familiarity and proficiency with memes and meme culture is just incredible,” André Miller, one of Garcia’s friends and MCAS ’22, said. “For my birthday in September, she slipped a card under my door and it was just a hand-drawn meme. It was fantastic.”
Brandon Portillo, MCAS ’22
randon Portillo is a two-time comedy group reject: He was cut by Asinine and Hello…Shovelhead! during his freshman year. Although rejection can leave a bad taste in the mouth of a freshman who just wants to quench their thirst with club-sponsored Rubinoff and Natty Lite, Portillo decided to give Shovelhead a second chance.
Based on an off-putting interaction Portillo had with a Shovelhead member last year, Portillo wasn’t initially planning on going through comedy group auditions again.
“I may have made like an inappropriate, like forward move towards one of the people in Shovelhead—not like purposefully,” Portillo said.
When Portillo was asked to come up with an improv character during auditions, he quickly assumed the role of a “valley girl who was like really hot, like a stereotypical valley girl.” But his pleas for one of the male judges to indulge Portillo’s valley girl need for attention remained unanswered, despite Portillo’s batting eyelashes and forced giggles. Kieran Harrington, a member of Shovelhead and MCAS ’20, convinced him to give it another go this year.
Once Portillo was accepted to the group, he earned the immediate approval of Laura Huepenbecker, a former director of Shovelhead, a Five Funniest alumna, and BC ’19; who sent Portillo an “inspiring” message about making the group.
“She’s like a legend in Shovelhead,” Portillo said.
Since being inducted into Shovelhead, Portillo has written about eight sketches, he said. His self-reported best sketch is about a “sexy Stanford Prison experiment.” Only 14 sketches are selected to be performed at shows, so Portillo writes down any inkling of a sketch that comes to him throughout the day. After finishing the interview, Portillo jotted down the phrase “You’re doing amazing sweetie”—which I told him as we were leaving CoRo Cafe—in his notes app. And thus a new sketch is born.
Prior to joining the group, Portillo had already built up a reputation for being the “funny friend.” Cat Marra, one of Portillo’s friends and MCAS ’22, recalled a time when Portillo boldly ranted about not making the cut for any comedy groups to his freshman topic seminar class.
“I knew about [the rejection] because he vented about not getting in in the freshman seminar,” Marra said. “He just went off on a tangent and everyone was like, ‘Me too!’”
For Portillo, comedy is more than just the punchline of a joke or the plot of a sketch—it’s a lifestyle.
“It’s just his attitude that’s funny,” Marra said. “Like he’s not making jokes—it’s just the way he says things and the way he presents himself [that’s] just funny.”
Portillo’s shameless antics are part of what makes the sophomore seem like a real life SNL character. Portillo’s bold fashion choices take cues from his sense of humor.
“I like Crocs,” Portillo said. “I wear them casually. No one seems to understand that they’re a fashion statement.”
Portillo admitted he likes to decorate his Crocs with Jibbitz, the pins that adorn the holes of the infamous shoe. His Jibbitz collection includes pins that depict some of the most important cultural icons of our time: Dory from Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, a minion from Despicable Me, and Patrick Star from SpongeBob SquarePants. Aside from Crocs, Portillo also wears a garbage bag for a raincoat on occasion. If you see a black blob approaching on the quad, don’t be alarmed—Portillo is just trying to make it to class without getting soaked.
Correction, Oct. 24, 4:33 p.m.: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Dan DiCocco’s last name with two c’s. His last name, in fact, has three c’s.
Featured Graphic by Emerson DeBasio / Heights Editor