Pete Lee, a famous comedian who has been featured on Comedy Central and NBC’s Last Comic Standing performed at the SUB Tuesday night to a full crowd of students. From the moment he reached the stage, Lee created a casual atmosphere and connected immediately with the crowd, somehow managing to turn Union Market into a comedy club. The show was such a success it was a long wait to get an interview afterwards because so many people lined up, wanting pictures or just one more joke.
Lee opened with a few jokes about his hometown in Wisconsin, but it was immediately clear that he was from the Midwest without him needing to admit it. He said “sorry” about once a story, and apologized for jokes that might be too rough or pointed in advance. Lee also showed his nice streak when he was interacting with the crowd; he made jokes about the people he called out, but never failed to end with a compliment or a call to the crowd to cheer.
Despite the self-described “Midwest nice,” Lee was still able to tell the dirtiest jokes heard at MSU since the last Excrement edition. He was described by one attendant as “Midwest wholesome, wrapped in some real raunchy stuff.”
One of Lee’s comedic strengths is knowing how to play the crowd. While he says he doesn’t cater to college students, he was suspiciously flattering of MSU students. In an interview following the show, Lee claimed that “shows here are amazing. Everyone who comes here is really smart and cool, this school is the best.” Maybe he said these things because he guessed (correctly) that it would land him in the paper, but he does love coming to Bozeman enough to give ASMSU a discount on his shows. Despite his declarations of love for Montana, he can’t pronounce “Gallatin” despite several attempts, and may still believe it is a river of Jello.
The most impressive part of Lee’s routine, however, was the incredible level of compassion he brings to comedy. None of his jokes relied on negative stereotypes or mocking of marginalized groups. Lee managed to talk about women and the LGBTQ+ community in ways that were supportive and yet still funny. “There’s been so much humor from comedians that is destructive to those communities. I want to write material that builds them up, defends them.” Lee also takes a strong stance on the comedic powers of women, saying that “of course women are funny” and that he was inspired to be a comedian partially by Ellen DeGeneres.
Despite MSU being college 78 on his current tour of 110 universities, Lee doesn’t try to make his material just for stressed students in need of a joke. “I feel like my niche is human beings. I like to put emotions in my work and I think that’s what resonates.”
Somewhere between the Tinder jokes and discussing the importance of self-love, Lee had time to get to the fundamental truths of life: how crying too hard in public feels, that the man who tries too hard to be straight is probably gay and how much women love dresses with pockets.
Lee got into stand-up when he was in college at the University of Minnesota and performed at the ACME Comedy Club in Minneapolis for his first show. “I crushed it, and then I bombed for the next six months,” Lee said. He felt confident enough to try comedy because his freshman roommate collected all of the funny one-liners he said and gave the collection to him in a notebook at the end of the year.
Towards the end of his show, Lee took a brave turn and got political, joking about North Korea and comparing Trump’s appearance to what would come out of your drain if Chewbacca used your shower for a year. Lee says he often receives emails from conservative students complaining about his stances, and his typical response is “blow off,” but less polite.
Despite the show going over time, no one from the audience left early. Pete Lee is a comedian worth watching, for his intelligent jokes and the jokes that make you laugh for no reason… or even just to make sure that he keeps his pinky promise to the crowd that he won’t tell jokes about Montana.