With sweaty palms, trembling knees and unsteady breathing, TJ Recker took the stage for the first stand-up act of his life.
“My first time on stage was terrifying,” said Recker, a fourth-year in psychology. “I felt my heart racing.”
It’s been nearly a year since he told those first jokes to a crowded room, but that anxiety has not disappeared completely.
“Even now before I go on stage, my heart starts to beat out of my chest,” Recker said. “But once I get on stage and tell my first joke, I am just fine.”
Recker was one of four contestants from Ohio State chosen to compete in the TBS and Rooftop Comedy National College Comedy Competition.
Three-minute clips of each member’s stand-up act were posted online and voted on by the public. The OSU team beat out its competition, Miami University, in the first round of online voting.
Ryan Frank, a marketing consultant for Rooftop Comedy, said the competition is a great way for young comics to be discovered. Some past winners have walked away from the tournament with offers to write for TV shows.
“The goal is to find the funniest stand-up comedian within the college range,” Frank said.
For Aaron Nemo, a third-year in English, being chosen to represent OSU was a thrilling experience.
“It’s like being on the football team,” Nemo said, “except I’m not getting paid for it.”
When a three-minute act can determine the outcome of the competition, the pressure is on for these funny guys to get laughs.
“I’ve heard psychologists mention that the top fears for the human brain are No. 1 public speaking and No. 2 death,” Nemo said. “Anytime you’re doing something scarier than dying, you’re going to get a bit nervous.”
During a previous round, the original eight members of the group were narrowed down to four. Along with Recker and Nemo, John Bieber and Dan White were chosen to continue in the competition.
“The entire team this year was fantastic,” Recker said. “They are all great guys, and I thought that any one of us could move on. We were all that funny.”
Nemo said saying goodbye to the other members was difficult.
“Even though it feels great to get your name called as an advancing member, the whole time you’re thinking, ‘Ah man, I wish so-and-so was moving on with me,'” he said.
The group will face Michigan State in this round of the competition, but Nemo said he is already looking ahead to the future. If the OSU team prevails, it will go on to create a video roasting its next opponent.
“I’ve been thinking about some potential roast jokes for one of the teams we may see in the next round (St. Cloud State or Columbia College),” Nemo said. “Our roast video would destroy the opponent if we can make it.”
To encourage students to vote, Recker says he boasts more than just a great sense of humor.
“I am funny,” Recker says, “(and) my looks are equally as good-looking as Derek Zoolander.”
Online voting runs today until Monday. For more information on the comompetition, or to cast your vote, visit www.rooftopcomedy.com/college/