An Evening of Firsts: An Intern's Look at Laughing Liberally's "Stand Up For Freedom!"

by Ben Lust

This past Wednesday, I went to my first event as an intern for Living Liberally. "Stand Up for Freedom!" presented by the PEN American Center and featuring Laughing Liberally, was a huge hit. In a quick summation before I begin, the night was highlighted by many wonderful first-time experiences.

I was not sure what to expect when I walked in those doors of the Galapagos Arts Center at 6pm, two hours before the show started. To be honest, I did not even know right away. It took a good thirty seconds of staring into what I thought was an oddly placed black mirror on the ground before I realized it was in fact water...there was water all around the stage and the tables! Expecting to walk into a customary theater, this urban setting was a breath of fresh air to me.

Following this water-revelation, I began to chat with Beth, one of the event planners from PEN. After telling her that this was the first time I was in Dumbo (amazing name), she encouraged me to wander around a little. I walked down the boardwalk and got some great photos of some afternoon views and the giant merry-go-round.

When I returned to Galapagos, I took my position of selling tickets at the front door. Happy to help out, we collected a fat stack of money as people began to roll on in. The chatter as they opened the first door was pretty great, some people immediately saying things such as "this place smells like a pool." Little did they know how right they really were. As showtime inched closer, it suddenly hit me that, although I love comedy routines and watch them all the time, I have never seen one in person. This revelation served to even further my excitement for the show.

Katie Halper, the MC, started the show off right with a great set, warming us up to see her several times through the night as she performed before introducing each comedian.

Next was Negin Farsad. Negin was the only one of the comedians I was familiar with, due to her role in the Campaignful video series, which makes politics more approachable by way of a hilarious behind-the-scenes satire of a Republican "War Room." Negin did not disappoint, blending hilarious stories from her escapades on the dance floor, to casually breaking a toilet in Iran, with observations on politics and culture.

Next up was Baratunde Thurston. It brought a tear to my eye when Baratunde built up the courage to confess his biggest fear to us: being killed by a drone strike ordered by a white lady scared he is going to take her purse. Baratunde continued to explain awkward racial encounters he has experienced as well as his opinion on Mitt Romney and his team (far from enthusiastic about the possibility that he is the next president).

Once Baratunde exited, Katie took the stage once more. This time, she vented about a quirky past boyfriend of hers, whom seemed far from ideal after hearing several stories about him. Just when I began to wrap my head around her ex-boyfriend's relationship with his mother, Katie said goodbye one last time. Throughout the night, Katie did a great job combining true humor with current events. Katie touched over topics ranging from human rights to freedom of speech.

Next up, John Fugelsang. John proceeded to display his extreme political knowledge whilst humorously expounding the different types of liberals and conservatives in the world. All in all, each comedian had an intelligent set that had the audience laughing all the way through.

As I was saying before, this night was filled with firsts for me. My first time in Dumbo, my first time working for Laughing Liberally, and my first time at a comedy show. It turned out to be an amazing night with lots of laughs and great memories. One of the most rewarding parts of the night was learning about the PEN organization. PEN works to promote free expression across the entire world. By utilizing mediums such as comedy shows, PEN makes itself a very approachable organization that serves of such importance in the scheme of things.

Thanks to the whole Laughing Liberally and PEN team for allowing me to help out!