Web Exclusives: On the Campus...

April 6, 2005:
Trolling for laughs, bidding for books

By Katherine Reilly ’05

The up-and-comers in the world of stand-up comedy are not always the ones on the road, working the club circuit, as many Princeton students discovered on a Thursday evening in late February. Some fledgling comedians spend their days cramming for midterms, editing theses, and laboring over dissertations (just like their undergraduate and graduate school classmates), before taking to the stage with a bevy of material about their roommates, their parents, and the exotic state of New Jersey. Catch A Rising Star Comedy, a chain of clubs that has hosted performers from Jerry Seinfeld to Jon Stewart, brought its “College Comedy Challenge” to Princeton on Feb. 24 to choose the University’s funniest people. Held at Tower Club, the event attracted an overflow audience of students eager to see Princeton’s rising stars for themselves.

The show featured routines by 10 student comedians, many of them members of Princeton Stand-Up Comedy, a student organization that works to provide comedians with performance venues. The judges, including Catch A Rising Star CEO Craig Neier, scored the competitors on stage presence, audience response, originality, and material. At the end of the evening, the four funniest students were selected to go on to the next round of competition against performers from other area schools.

Marisa Biaggi, a graduate student in the music department, was one of those selected, winning the crowd over with jokes about the injustice of handicapped parking spaces. She began doing stand-up three years ago at the urging of a friend who played on her “delusions of comic grandeur” and convinced her to take to the stage. Once she did, she was hooked. “After you make a roomful of people laugh just once,” she said, “you just want to keep doing it.”

Patrick Cunningham ’05 perfected his material, including complaints about his parents’ penchant for buying him irregular clothing, in on-campus performances and at comedy clubs and open mike nights in New York City. The senior English major was the favorite of the judges; one called him “the rare kid who could skip the minor leagues and go directly to the majors.” Instead, Cunningham, a Marshall Scholar, will be taking his act to England next year. He hopes to perform in clubs in and around London while pursuing a degree at Oxford.

Cunningham and Biaggi, along with graduate student Jason Lawrence and junior Ben Fast, are one step closer to the big time as they await the next round of competition in the Catch A Rising Star contest. According to Biaggi, the “comedy showdown” will be held at one of the company’s local comedy clubs and “no one has yet confirmed whether or not we get to wear spurs.”


While some Princeton students shine on stage, senior Clay Bavor has applied his creative energies to enhancing student life over the Internet. Bavor’s latest endeavor, TigerTrade, is an online auction site that allows students to buy and sell everything from used textbooks to cars to DVDs. Launched in early March, TigerTrade is part of Point.Princeton.edu, a student Web portal the features daily headlines, polls, and information about campus events. In the auction site’s first week, more than 200 items were put up for bidding, a number that is expected to increase dramatically at the end of the year when students begin seeking summer housing and selling textbooks and furniture.

Bavor developed the idea for TigerTrade with friend and classmate Jesse Levinson ’05 as part of an assignment for Professor Kenneth Steiglitz’s “Electronic Auctions” course. Bavor was also working on the original design for the Point site at the time and saw a need for a retooled auction site to replace the antiquated Salesline and Bookline, essentially online classifieds provided by the Undergraduate Student Government. After some long hours designing a user interface and testing the program, the auction site was ready to be released to the Princeton public. Originally launched as pBay, the site was renamed TigerTrade after only a few days in order to avoid confusion with the popular online auction site eBay, run by another Princetonian, CEO Meg Whitman ’77.

TigerTrade quickly attracted many fans among the student body. Items up for auction include summer sublets in New York’s East Village, used psychology textbooks, and sets of dishes. Students have also used the site to find editors for their senior theses and classmates to share a spring break drive home. Bavor has his sights set even higher. “My biggest hope for TigerTrade,” he said, “is that by providing a popular, easy-to-use marketplace, students will stop paying full price for books at the beginning of the semester and then reselling them for a fraction of the price a few months later.” That’s one trade Princetonians would be happy to make.


Katherine Reilly ’05, a Woodrow Wilson School major, can be reached at kcreilly@princeton.edu.