BU Today

Arts & Entertainment + Campus Life

BU Central Turns Five, and Kicks Off Tonight

The on-campus mainstay in the GSU basement wants your joke!

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BU Central’s chalkboard wall (top). Missouri band Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin plays to a packed house (middle). Comedian Gary Gulman entertains (bottom). Photos by Devon Maloney and courtesy of BU Central

Current BU undergrads have never known the George Sherman Union basement minus BU Central — the free, late-night, student-run entertainment venue is so ingrained in the University’s mosaic that it seems always to have been here. But BU Central proves otherwise this fall, celebrating its fifth anniversary.

The partying begins tonight, with the semester’s first Central event, Jammin’ Thursday, a dance party from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. featuring live DJs.

Good times in the GSU basement predate BU Central. Five years ago, the concept evolved out of what was then the GSU Games Room, home to pool tables, video games, and assorted couches and armchairs. “There were things going on, but it didn’t have the same sense of community fostered by BU Central,” remembers Amanda Clark (COM’06), who works in Development and Alumni Relations. “It was bare and sparse.”

Stephen Rodi (ENG’07,’08) agrees: “They didn’t seem to know what they wanted to do with it. It was kind of a sad place.”

Enter Mike Pereira (SHA’05). A member of the Programming Council, BU’s student-run event planning group, Pereira in 2003 came up with the idea of a place students could find something to do on any Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night.

“Sure, student groups are always hosting tons of events, but nothing was on a regular basis,” he says. “The idea of BU Central was to enhance the campus by bringing talent that would normally play in different bars and clubs around the city — right to you.”

That vision has been realized. BU Central’s volunteer student staff, in collaboration with faculty advisors, has managed to snatch up and draw in numerous underground bands on the eve of national recognition. Past acts include We Are Scientists, the Silversun Pickups, the comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade, and even Jordan Knight from New Kids on the Block — a performance remembered fondly by Jeff Murphy, assistant director of student activities in the Student Activities Office.

“It was on St. Patrick’s Day, so we were worried that no one would show up,” recalls Murphy, who oversees student staff and the professional employees in charge of maintenance and upkeep. “But people started lining up at two o’clock in the afternoon. Mind you, the show didn’t start until nine.”

That night, Knight brought the first girl in line up on stage and serenaded her with her favorite New Kids song. “She started sobbing hysterically,” Murphy remembers. “It’s one of my favorite memories of BU Central.”

With a 400-person capacity and seats hard against the stage, the venue is geared toward this kind of interaction and spontaneity. Sam Inchausti (COM’11) wants to keep that energy high. “Fans get to see these underground acts up close and personal,” says this year’s general manager. “It’s a great opportunity to get in on new hot tickets.”

Inchausti has created an impressive lineup: Ted Leo, Faces on Film, Great Lakes Swimmers, and Cymbals Eat Guitars, as well as such homegrown heroes as BU’s all-male a cappella group Dear Abbeys and sketch comedy group Slow Children at Play and folk singer–songwriter Spitzer Space Telescope (CFA senior Dan MacDonald). Acts like comedian Andrew Kennedy, the annual Acoustic Café (an open-mic night featuring acoustic acts by BU students), and WTBU Day, a concert hosted by BU’s student-run radio station, are also on the calendar.

“It’s amazing to see something that you worked on so hard come to life and continue to affect future generations,” says Pereira. He can feel secure — at five years old, BU Central shows no sign of letting up.

To celebrate its fifth birthday, this month BU Central is bringing back Eugene Mirman, the first performer to take to its stage. Mirman now has a recurring role on the HBO series Flight of the Conchords. He will be at Central on Wednesday, September 23, five years to the day of his BU debut. Staff expect to sell out.

Want to be one of the lucky ones to score a seat? You’re going to have to work for it. BU Central and BU Today have teamed up to sponsor a Make Us Laugh contest.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Make a 30-second video telling the funniest joke you know. Make sure to state your full name in the video so we can contact you if you’re a winner. Keep it PG-13, nothing over-the-top offensive, insulting, or just plain filthy.
  2. Go to BU Today’s BU Central joke page on YouTube and do a video response to the title card. One video per person; uploading a 45-minute clip of you telling every joke ever stolen from Comedy Central is not going to win.
  3. A team of BU Central and BU Today comedy experts will watch all submissions and the 50 top joke-tellers will get a Golden Wristband that will get them and a guest (must be a BU student/faculty/staff person) into the show).

Why enter? Because, as BU Central’s motto says, “Life is cooler underground.”

Catch BU Central’s fifth birthday celebration on September 23. Tonight, Thursday, September 3, stop in for Jammin’ Thursday, a dance party from 10 p.m to 1:30 a.m. featuring live DJs.

Devon Maloney can be reached at devon.maloney@gmail.com.

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