Just five minutes prior to Phil Hanley’s stand-up performance last Friday, nearly every seat in the Great Hall was filled.
Though the show started a few minutes late, people continued to trickle in as Hanley took the stage. Instead of launching into a pre-packaged routine, Hanley began his performance as a dialogue with students, talking about Mary Washington and the reason he had come—he wanted to see the new bridge, of course.
Hanley’s opening conversational style was characteristic of the rest of his performance. He managed to spin every sort of subject into a joke, keeping the audience laughing with each topic thrown his way.
Students who spoke up during the performance had no idea what they were in for: Hanley turned every comment into a joke, and was extremely adept at bringing the routine back to poking fun at them, lending a very cohesive element to the show.
One student in particular, who identified herself as “Feng,” was referenced often during the performance. After Hanley claimed that he’d almost come to Mary Washington on a football scholarship, “Feng” quickly corrected him about Mary Washington’s lack of a team.
Hanley then asked how long it had taken her to discover the absence of a football team on campus. She admitted it had been nearly a month, to which Hanley replied: “I’ve only been here 45 minutes.”
Despite that brief time and the fact that he hails all the way from Canada, Hanley fit right into the Fredericksburg crowd. He even got a taste of home, managing to find one fellow Canadian in the crowd—a girl whose family owns a house in New Brunswick, which, as Hanley pointed out, is “where all the tourists go.”
From a girl with an unexplained leg injury to a shy beat-boxer, no one was safe from Hanley’s quick-witted humor. A few awkward pauses in the show were remedied by Hanley’s ability to turn awkwardness into humor by poking fun at his own performance and himself.
Hanley even went so far as to call his sweater “a powerful contraceptive,” a joke that received a tremendous collective laugh from the audience.
Freshman Logan Porvaznik perfectly described Hanley.
“He’s the most awkward comedian I’ve ever seen but definitely really funny,” he said.
According to Hanley, his performances are generally a combination between conversational jokes with the audience and a few prepared bits to keep the show running smoothly. This keeps the routine fresh, as he has to think on his feet.
“You have to be in the moment,” Hanley said.
Even after the show, Hanley didn’t turn the humor off. When informed of this article’s intended publication in the Bullet, he eagerly asked to be promised a copy.
“The articles help me get a green card!” he said.
[Photo credit to Marie Sicola/Bullet]