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Man of a thousand faces

Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

Freshman Gabe Feldstein scrunched his nose, pursed his lips and insulted his scene partner, who asked him to dance. He had assumed the role of a so-called “Persnickety Qwetzel”—an ill-tempered creature with an indecent mouth.

“I still think you’re fat,” he said, then jogged off stage to a round of applause.

Feldstein is a rising star in the small, but energetic NU and Improv’d student comedy troupe.  Performing at afterHOURS, last week, he slung insults, told quirky jokes about firemen in bars and invoked laughter — like a young Charlie Chaplin — through distinctive facial expressions.

He said his face is a tool, like an artist’s brush or a ball player’s bat. As a kid, he grimaced, sneered and cracked twisted smiles in front of his bathroom mirror.

“If someone challenges me to make him laugh, I’ll do something with my face,” said Feldstein, who joined the comedy troupe in the fall. “If it gets a laugh, I’ll beat it until it’s dead.”

Feldstein owes his love for making people laugh to the stand-up comedian George Carlin, a social critic whose funniest bits explored the most ordinary tasks, such as driving or checking your wristwatch.

Feldstein, who said a stand-up gig would be a “dream come true,” summed up the guidelines for a good joke: “Being funny is all about making connections,” he said. “The funniest things are true.”

Student Joel Marsh, president of the comedy troupe, praised Feldstein, who also played the son of a man addicted to Cheeze-Its.

“Gabe has been on fire lately,” said Marsh, a junior cinema studies and communication studies dual major. “He’s really been nailing every scene.”

The same could be said for Marsh, whose comedic tool of choice is his voice. As a kid, he recorded phrases in different accents and critiqued his performance.

Last week, he played an acrobatic leprechaun from New Zealand who helped his scene partner make s’mores by a campfire by tossing him chocolate and large branches.

“I try not to think about anything else before a scene,” said Marsh. “The hardest part is getting nervous, or saying something un-funny.”

Judging by the audience’s uproarious reaction to his nimble-footed creature, he won’t have to worry about hitting a sour note. “Students,” he said, “love these shows.”