Junior Maddy Gross wants to use the tools she has to make a difference — and for her, that means making people laugh.
As the head writer for Elon Tonight, Gross has of experience writing comedic material, but eight months ago she took the dive into stand-up comedy.
“I feel comfortable calling myself a comedian now mostly because I’ve been paid a couple times — still not enough,” she said. “Whenever I say professional comedian, that’s a bit of a stretch.”
Up to three times a week, Gross travels around the Triad to various open mics and performs stand-up. She is a regular at the Front Street Public House in Burlington and the Idiot Box in Greensboro.
While she was home for Fake Break, Gross’ parents were attending a benefit for Handicap International and invited Maddy to join. She jumped at the opportunity to meet comics from her home state of Maryland.
“I saw them do the benefit and raise like $4,000 in that one night and it was a really small room — maybe 40 people in there maximum,” she said. “I was like ‘OK I could probably do this at Elon — I could probably make more money.’”
After the event, Gross decided she wanted to organize a comedy show for the Elon Community benefiting the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
When President Donald Trump’s travel ban was put into effect earlier this year, Gross knew she would raise money for the ACLU to help their immigration support efforts.
“ACLU is recognizable and they matter — that is who is going to make a difference,” Gross said.
In addition, Gross is in the process of preparing for another benefit show to support Faith Action, a local organization based out of Greensboro that assists immigrants with documentation and education.
Gross will perform along with various other Elon comics, including sophomores Hannah Benson and Mikey Gibeley and senior Spencer Hodges.
Hodges recently signed on as a comedian when she heard Gross was benefitting a cause she is passionate about. She was very upset by the travel ban like Gross wanted to help in some way.
“I wept for all of the wonderful, helpless people that were seeking refuge and my country. I wept for legal citizens of this country that were being detained,” Hodges said. “When I heard that Maddy was putting together a night of stand up and that the funds would go to the ACLU, an organization determined to protect civil rights, I knew that I had something to say and that I wanted to contribute.”
Gross said the process to organize an event can be complicated, especially without a club or organization backing her. After some research and many trips to the Moseley Front Desk, Gross discovered that event spaces can be booked on Pheonix Connect and quickly proposed her idea.
The event is set for 8 p.m. on Feb. 25 in McKinnon Hall, which Gross is excited to fill with an audience — including her parents.
“My mom has never seen me do stand-up before and my dad hasn’t seen me do it since September,” she said. “I don’t think they’re going to love it.”
Gross says she has been criticized for not being “clean enough” in her acts — which she attributes to her gender.
“I don’t say anything crazy,” she said. “I think there is a stigma that if you say anything gross on stage people freak out, but if you’re a guy it’s funny. So I’m working on that.”
As Gross continues to perform more around North Carolina, she frequently sees familiar faces.
“It’s a good comedy community to start out in,” she said.
Gross’s upcoming event is an attempt to make the world a little less scary, she says. She’s aware that she grew up with privilege that many others do not, and is hoping to use it to make a difference despite feeling overwhelmed.
“Me, being white, coming from a middle-class family, I was lucky that I got to ignore that stuff when I was younger and I could just say ‘someone else will deal with it,’” Gross said. “I’m Jewish — I would not be alive if the U.S. had not allowed my grandpa to escape Germany. I’m not going to let this country turn people away. It’s scary, you need to do whatever you can to make it less scary — for me that’s jokes, so if I can raise money too, that’s good.”