The crowd rushed into Cahn Auditorium at 7:55 p,m., many frantically trying to load their tickets on their phones in the doorway line. After mine finally, painstakingly loaded, my friends and I sped through the double doors, grabbing some of the last close-up seats left in the auditorium. The place was packed – like the Ticketmaster queue for Taylor Swift tickets – considering this was a Wednesday night during the last midterms week of Fall Quarter.
We all waited anxiously for Hannah Einbinder and Megan Stalter, A&O Productions' Fall speakers, to take the stage.
Einbinder and Stalter are stars of the HBO Max show Hacks. Both gained their renown from this series. Einbinder is the daughter of Saturday Night Live original cast member Laraine Newman and comedy writer Chad Einbinder. The Los Angeles native rose to fame in 2021 with multiple Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe nomination in 2022. Stalter is a Midwesterner hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, and her parents were not in the industry. She similarly gained fame the last few years, beginning with The Megan Stalter Show in 2020 before landing her role in Hacks in 2021. Stalter is also famous on TikTok.
Now, back to the action.
The room was filled with anticipation as the clock passed 8pm; our collective energy exploded as soon as Orly Lewittes, a student comic here at Northwestern, walked onto the stage.
Lewittes, a junior in prestigious NU comedy groups The Bix and Mee-Ow, opened for the pair of headlining Hacks. If her resumé means nothing to you, trust me when I say that her set solidified her as a growing talent. Lewittes’ material felt very relatable and pertinent to college life, with many jokes in the NU student-niche. In other words (and in my humble opinion), her name is one you should remember.
Lewittes began with a story about when she saw Einbinder while interning in New York. She then transitioned to talking about relationships, specifically about her girlfriend and being gay and how that affects her relationship with – you guessed it – her optometrist. Lewittes subverted audience expectations like a pro (she’d probably get an A in my creative writing class).
Seconds after Lewittes went offstage, Stalter came bounding out of the wings with two microphones clutched fiercely in her hands, before actually introducing herself with the mic already placed at the stage’s center. Let me be clear: we didn’t stop laughing until she left the stage.
Stalter’s set felt like a more unconventional stand-up routine, consisting of mostly chaotic, seemingly unplanned moments with obviously planned elements, creating a weird dichotomy that worked well. I kept looking at my friends in complete hysterics; Stalter somehow made her silences as funny as her jokes! She opened the show with a dance routine that she cut short to a seemingly self-recorded song. After her opening, Stalter talked a good amount about her experience dropping out of school, being a nanny and then about things that were going on in the audience.
At one point, she called Medill second-year student Sadie Frankel to the stage, who had broken not one, but two of her elbows rollerskating the week before. Her predicament became the subject of numerous jokes by Stalter; one of which had Frankel and two other students enact another opening for Stalter. Frankel asked “Guess who’s here?” to which one student replied, “Megan Stalter is here!” while the third student attempted to kill Stalter by charging towards her and threatening to push her off the stage. It was all just as crazy and confusing as it sounds, but it had the desired effect of making the audience do a number one from laughing so hard.
Stalter closed the set with a very erotic reading filled with metaphors so overt that it read like a cringey yet bizzarely hilarious Wattpad story. Stalter left the stage with as much chaos as when she entered, as she pretended to exit the wrong way and then ignored the crowd as she crossed the stage again.
Finally, it was time for Hannah Einbinder’s set, the final set of the night before the event’s Q&A. I could feel the room quiet, as after Stalter, no one knew what to expect. Einbinder walked out in a much more calm fashion, but turned out to be just as chaotically funny in her own way.
Einbinder was far more organized and structured, and it almost felt like she was trying to teach us something through her jokes rather than simply make us laugh. I thought this approach to stand up was very interesting, and the two women’s divergent comedic styles worked well in conjunction with one another; almost like the classic fun-parent versus adviser-parent relationship.
The highlights included, but were not limited to: her explanation of why over 200 million people now have tree pollen allergies thanks to one guy in 1949 saying we needed to plant male trees in cities because they look cleaner; having ADHD and how taking Adderall affects her life; smoking weed and not doing hard drugs; getting her first period (and thinking she was dying of liver failure instead); and finally, a deeply dark joke about her grandmother’s funeral where the hearse driver told her she couldn’t carry the casket, before he fell into the hole made for said casket.
One thread in her set that I think is pertinent to share touched on anti-semitism, something she said affects her deeply as a bisexual Jewish woman. While she did not seem aware of recent conversations here at NU, her message of love and support after many of her jokes felt important for students to hear especially during a time when many are hurting.
With both professional comics, I really loved how engaged they were with the audience – constantly bringing us with them on stories, joking at us, asking us questions. When the audience left after the Q&A, the three comedians serenaded us with continuous, rapid-fire jokes and conversation until the room was empty.
If I took one thing away from the show, it’s to drop out of school and become a nanny; thanks Stalter.
Thumbnail image courtesy of Lianna Amoruso.