Drew Smith, ‘27, performs a comedy set on Sept. 23 at Carmen Christopher’s stand-up comedy show at SteelStacks. Smith was called on stage to perform one of the comedian’s bits as part of the set. (Courtesy of Aojie Li)

Lehigh’s Gut Punch club brings more than a laugh


Vito Capraro, ‘24, said he thinks everyone should perform stand-up comedy at least once in their life.

Capraro said when he gets on stage in front of a room full of his peers, he’s not worried about the audience’s reaction to his jokes. Instead, he sees this vulnerability as therapeutic.

“It’s all about failing,” Capraro, vice president of the Gut Punch club, said. “You write something of your own creation, a joke, and then you bring it to a place like this filled with random people you usually don’t know and you present it to them and it’s either validated or invalidated. It’s rejection therapy, which is a very powerful form of therapy.”

Aidan Schmall, ‘24, president of the club, said it was created in spring of 2023 out of a desire to create a space for comedy enthusiasts on campus. Schmall said he was initially apprehensive about the club, but his friend and co-founder Anandani Rohit, ’23, helped him see the potential of having such a platform on campus.

“Rohit was the driving force,” Schmall said. “He believed in the power of comedy and saw in me a partner who could help bring this vision to life.”

Capraro said weekly meetings are the heart of the club.

Each meeting attracts an average attendance of 10 students, he said, all with varying comedic tastes. Meetings consist of watching famous comedy bits online and discussing new, student-produced content.

“Our club’s real attraction is the community we are trying to create around comedy,” Capraro said. “The environment and the passion around our club reflect how our club has been growing so fast.” 

Outside of meetings, the club coordinates stand-up comedy performances on campus and offers members the opportunity to travel to watch professional comedians’ shows. On Sept. 28, the club brought more than 10 members to the SteelStacks to watch professional comedian Jay Pharoah’s comedy set.

Capararo said these events are the highlight of some of their members’ weeks. These events, he said, aren’t just about the comedy but about building a community.

On Sept. 20, the club hosted their first stand-up comedy open mic in Lamberton Hall.

One of the club’s new members, Charles Gallucci, ‘27,  was introduced to Gut Punch at the club fair and a few weeks later performed a stand-up comedy routine for the first time.

Gallucci said he was inspired to get into comedy by his father who worked as a bouncer at a comedy club.

“I stumbled upon the club and instantly felt a connection,” Gallucci said. “From watching stand-up shows as a kid, to learning about the ropes of comedy, it has all come full circle for me.”

He said his method for this first performance included drinking a mixture of caffeine and Kool Aid before getting on stage.

Capraro said joining Gut Punch has been a transformative experience for him. 

“My journey in comedy has been both challenging and rewarding. Every time I stand on that stage, I learn something new about myself,” Capraro said. “Comedy is raw, real and brutally honest. It’s about confronting your fears, embracing failure and emerging stronger. It’s a life lesson packaged in a laugh.”

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