Pete Lee to host Stand Up Comedy Contest


Courtesy of Pete Lee

Pete Lee is hosting the Student Union Board’s Stand Up Comedy Contest on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 8 p.m.

Emily Urban

Pete Lee thought a standing ovation was the norm on the “The Tonight Show.” He thought there was a sign above his head telling the audience to applaud. However, standing up in front of the audience with Jimmy Fallon, Lee teared up. He will always remember that moment as the best of his career. 

Lee will host the Student Union Board’s Stand Up Comedy Contest Thursday night at 8 p.m. in the Maintenance Shop. He has starred on TV shows such as NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” Comedy Central’s “Premium Blend” and “This Week at the Comedy Cellar.” 

Performers Thursday night will have five minutes each to perform their set for the live audience and judges. The winner of the competition will perform as the opener for a professional comedian at a SUB Comedy Night and collect a monetary prize. Runner ups will receive a certificate and monetary prizes. 

Lee started his comedy career at the University of Minnesota. His friends signed him up for the open mic night at a club and people came up to him after the show to ask him how long he had been doing stand up. He got invited to perform as a regular.

“I basically kept doing it. You do like your stand up unpaid like your first five to six years,” Lee said. “You are just doing it because you love, and you don’t get paid for it. If you do get paid, it’s like $100. So I did it pretty much unpaid then I went out of the road for about three years.”

Lee moved to New York City after he toured around. He performed on many different TV shows and in many different clubs. Last year, he moved out to Los Angeles, but that was not without a plane trip back twice a week.

Lee says his personal style of comedy is 70% material and 30% improvisation. He likes to interact with the audience and go out among them, but is cautious about how he interacts. He finds smaller crowds harder than larger crowds because every laugh counts.

“One of the reasons why my comedy is generally socially responsible is because I think that that is way more difficult than just doing just comedy that triggers the more vulgar senses,” Lee said. “I have definitely done that comedy. It is easier. For that reason I want to do well with the hardest crowd possible. That is why I think that I prefer doing smaller crowds.”

Lee performs at 50-100 colleges a year and has also hosted numerous college comedy competitions. These competitions have ranged all over the United States, including South Carolina, Iowa and Minnesota.

“The thing that I am always astounded by is how good the comedians are at all of these schools” Lee said. “I don’t know if it is access to podcasts or access to watching a lot of stand up comedy, but I have really found that the students that compete at these universities are so original and so good. Their writing level is way better than I was when I was growing up.”

Lee understands the anxiety behind performing a stand up set and offers encouraging words to the young comedians choosing to perform Thursday night.

“The best mindset to be in when you go on stage is that you are doing this because it is fun,” Lee said. “Literally have fun… So instead of being afraid of that and have anxiety about how they are going to connect with the audience, just go up there and be really warm and connect. The audience is your friend and they want you to do well and they want to go with you.”

The Stand Up Comedy Contest will be held Thursday, Jan. 24 at 8 p.m. in the Maintenance Shop. Admission is free to the public.