The UMBC 2017-2018 Homecoming Comedy Show featuring Trevor Noah and sponsored by the Student Events Board was the largest homecoming comedy show put on in recent memory, a show of magnitude to rival Quadmania, which is held each year in the spring and is the largest recurring student life event held on our campus.
Tickets for the show, held in the RAC, sold out a little more than a week before the Oct. 13 show and were on sale for more than a month before the show. However planning for, preparing and organizing the event took countless more hours on the part of SEB, The Office of Student Life and many others throughout campus.
By 8 p.m., the line to get into the RAC stretched down Academic Row, doubled back and continued to snake in order to make room for the sold out crowd, but a few hours beforehand, when the line was only a few dedicated fans long, I spoke to Kaitlyn Smith, the Graduate Assistant for Student Events, about the intense planning and preparation that went into making the show a success.
Smith, a media and communications alumna from the class of 2017 and past president of seb, says that she and her team had been confident from the beginning about bringing Trevor Noah to campus for the 2017-18 Homecoming. What made the decision and the entire process easy was the early planning that was involved, with talk of getting Trevor Noah to UMBC starting as early as the fall of the 2016-17 academic year. Plans were made so far in advance that both her and the organization did not even consider having a back-up act.
Smith was also able to say with confidence that they knew the show would be a success and were able to (correctly) predict that the show would sell out. For Smith, the goal of SEB is to do what the students want, a mission that is accomplished by keeping all students in mind when putting together both large and small events on and around campus.
With the event being as large as it was, it was no surprise that safety was a major consideration. Ten campus police officers — the largest number of officers at any student event on campus other than Quadmania — worked at the event, in addition to campus security and event staff, to keep everyone safe and the event running smoothly.
While a sold-out crowd may give the impression that the show sold itself, speaking with Nada Ibrahim, a sophomore Health and Administration and Information Systems double major, suggests that seb’s marketing strategies reach as many students as possible.
It is not surprising that some of the most powerful tools SEB has at their disposal are social media platforms, of which Ibrahim states Facebook and Instagram are the most useful in advertising events put on by SEB, as an overwhelming majority of students are linked to these sites. However, Ibrahim shared that seb still takes advantage of more traditional means of advertising such as flyers and other forms of multimedia that can be posted around campus in academic buildings, residence halls and The Commons.
Even though doors to the event opened at 8 p.m., the show did not start until after 9 p.m. due simply to the massive crowd lined up outside the RAC. While the sheer size of the crowd could be to blame, one must also wonder if other factors may have come into play, such as only having a handful of event staff at the doors to manually scan tickets or a single open entry point to the venue, and if a newer, larger space provided by the soon-due Activities Center will provide a better environment for future shows such as this.
Despite this minor setback, the show went off almost perfectly with Noah delivering a fantastic set covering everything that one familiar with the comedian might have expected, including trap music, use and reaction to racial slurs, a near spot-on Trump impression, how much time one should give themselves before running to a toilet after eating a taco and much more.
While Noah’s set will most likely be in the minds of students, alumni, faculty and anyone else that attended, we must not be quick to forget or appreciate the countless man-hours that went into putting on such an event, the likes of which we can hope to see again in months, semesters and years to come.