By Aleksandra Sidorova
Comedian Jimmy McCartney, a Plattsburgh native and SUNY Plattsburgh alumnus, performed at the Warren Ballrooms at Angell College Center Tuesday, Sept. 20. The audience was small but highly receptive.
A baseball cap sitting backward atop long, curly brown hair, a print shirt framed with a blue checkered jacket paired with khaki pants and sneakers — McCartney had on what he called a “formal tuxedo in the Adirondacks.” With jokes about the North Country, Florida, dating failures and embarrassing stories from his past, he entertained a crowd of 18. McCartney wrapped up his show by singing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” together with his audience.
Jonah Baker-Flora is an audience member whom McCartney called “an OG.” Baker-Flora said he and McCartney have been “friends for a long time.” They met when McCartney visited Baker-Flora’s school for a gym class, a theme of one of McCartney’s jokes of the night. Baker-Flora is a freshman at SUNY Plattsburgh majoring in TV-radio production, and is still friends with McCartney. Baker-Flora sat in the front row and volunteered to participate in a skit of a story McCartney was recreating with his audience. At the end, Baker-Flora received a stuffed animal.
Taressa Lacey, a Plattsburgh alumna, came to the show to support McCartney, whom she had recently met downtown and never seen perform comedy before. Lacey graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh with a degree in psychology in 2020.
“My cheeks actually hurt from laughing,” Lacey said.
Some, like Amy Ward, a junior majoring in journalism, have never heard of McCartney prior to the SA announcing the show, and attended expecting “the kind of funny that at least makes you smirk.” She got that and more.
“Oh my God, he’s hilarious,” Ward said after the show.
Ward said McCartney’s comedy connected with her because of his genuine attitude and the lack of transitions between jokes.
“You never know what you’re going to see next,” Ward said.
Coordinator of Activities Marileana Rodriguez of the Student Association said she enjoyed the show as well.
“I feel like his personality and the show itself mingled very well,” Rodriguez said. “It didn’t seem like he was giving a show. It really just seemed like he was being himself.”
As the crowd enjoyed McCartney, so did he, saying the crowd had “good energy.” Small crowds do not worry him because of his years of experience performing at open mic events and SUNY Plattsburgh’s Coffeehouse. He said crowds for his tour’s shows ranged from 12 to 170 people. Small crowds are part of the process, but he appreciates the fact that people came to the show specifically to see him, McCartney said.
McCartney said he focuses on making sure whoever attends his shows is having fun. His favorite jokes arise from interactions with the audience.
“Those are the things that you say on the fly, which are typically the funniest, and they get the best responses, even when they’re not the best joke itself, because people know you thought of it on the fly instead of ahead of time,” McCartney said.
On his social media, McCartney describes his style simply as “struggle bus comedy,” meaning most of his jokes are based on unfortunate events that happened to him.
“What I’m really doing is not just telling stories of myself, but I’m trying to tell stories that may not be the same as other people, but people can relate to, of, like, embarrassing, unfortunate things, and feel good about knowing they’re not the only one that feels like they’re going through it,” McCartney said.
McCartney said it was “pretty cool” to perform a comedy show at his alma mater and “give back” to the community. Rodriguez said the idea for the show came from McCartney himself, and he took on the responsibility of arranging the show. Rodriguez said the SA’s role was to decide whether to host the event, provide space for the event and promote it.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Rodriguez said.
When the SA invited the comedian K-von to perform on campus in April, students wrote them so many critical emails that the show had to be canceled. Students alleged his jokes were racist and transphobic. The back-and-forth conflict between students and the comedian resulted in K-von releasing the names and one address of the students who he said “bullied” him.
While McCartney said he had heard of the controversy, he said, “I’m just focused on me and my story and doing my own thing.”
Rodriguez said the small crowd was to be expected.
“I feel like not many students like comedy shows, but it’s also that they don’t give it a chance, either,” Rodriguez said.
But the controversy surrounding K-von could also have affected the turnout for McCartney’s show.
“A lot of people didn’t think that the comedy show would work because they didn’t know what kind of comedian we had,” Rodriguez said. “They were like, ‘Well, last time you brought someone who is super controversial to this campus, so why should we trust in you again to bring someone that isn’t like that?’”
Rodriguez said she hopes to show students that “not every comedian is controversial” by organizing more opportunities for comedians, both among students and outside, to perform on campus. In her view, comedy shows are an opportunity to connect students and alumni, who “don’t see eye to eye.” She also said comedy shows can help students in their transition to college and adulthood.
“I think that, as a college student, you don’t really realize that you can listen to inappropriate jokes,” Rodriguez said, referring to some of McCartney’s jokes containing explicit language and sexual themes. “You kind of get shy, like, ‘Oh my god, we can say that word? We can hear that word, out loud?’”