TUCP, BSU bring Janelle James to campus

Laura Malagrino, Arcade Editor

Maggie LeStourgeon

Comedian and actress Janelle James delivered a hilariously amusing stand-up set on Tuesday to a packed room of Tulane students. Eager to see the “Abbott Elementary” star, students lined up outside Kendall Cram before doors even opened. 

The event was a collaboration between Tulane Campus Programming and the Black Student Union.

“We never partnered with BSU before, and we thought that it was a demographic that we hadn’t brought a lot of Black comedians to campus,” TUCP president Maggie LeStourgeon said. “So we thought that this was a good opportunity to kind of bring people that different demographics want to see on Tulane’s campus.” 

According to BSU president Raymell Green, James was the obvious choice for a comedy event.

“Janelle James was just, to me, and to my executive board, the best option,” Green said. “Abbott Elementary is extremely popular right now and her role, obviously, is very important and very well known. Everyone loves Principal Ava, or everyone has their feelings about Principal Ava.”

The event opened with comedian Aminah Imani, who set the tone for the rest of the night with quick-witted jokes and engaging crowd work. 

“She’s [Imani] here to gauge what you guys can deal with,” James said. “Universal gasp when she talked about putting stuff in your butt, so I know not to go there with you guys.”

James entered through the back of the room, dancing her way up the aisle and onto the stage to “Pretty Girls Walk.” As she worked her way through the room, stopping every couple of steps to dance by a student, the crowd showered James in applause and cheers. 

James has a long history in comedy, although she recently skyrocketed into the mainstream after the massive success of ABC’s “Abbott Elementary.” Starring as Principal Ava, James has already received awards from the Hollywood Critics Association and Black Reel Awards, as well as nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award, Golden Globe Award and Critics’ Choice Award, among others.

James touched on the newfound fame in her set, claiming that her rise to fame was accidental. 

“I never really wanted to be famous,” James said. “And I don’t know what I thought this [comedy] would lead to. I thought I was just like [expletive] around at nighttime, you know, hanging out with friends and stuff. And now I’m famous.”

James took questions at the end, walking through the crowd and engaging the entire audience. The questions ranged from opinions on astrology signs to comments on Tennessee’s recent drag bans. James also talked about her upbringing in a Caribbean household and getting started in comedy.

“I just started purely by chance,” James said. “And then I got my first laugh, I kept doing it, more and more people discovered me like Chris Rock and Amy Schumer and all these people that started to take me on the road, and I saw that exposure, and then I just worked my way through.”

With over 300 people in attendance on Tuesday, there is no doubt that James is in high demand. For Green, bringing comedians like James to campus is a step toward better representation on campus. 

“We’re really happy that we’re able to bring this opportunity to Tulanians,” Green said. “Our general body just hasn’t really felt that included when it comes to some of the regular TUCP programming … This event is kind of just a showing of that, of us hearing them, and us partnering with TUCP and doing what we can to kind of make that representation happen.”

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