Students filled Irvine Auditorium Wednesday night for a free comedy show and concert featuring 1999 College graduate John Legend and several comedians — all for the purpose of promoting voter registration.
Stand Up and Vote, hosted by the Office of the President in partnership with Penn Leads the Vote, featured performances from Legend and comedians Mike Birbiglia, Michelle Wolf, Josh Johnson, and Aparna Nancherla. Students were able to register to vote at tables outside the auditorium before they entered.
Wharton freshman Alex Asness said Legend sang several of his popular songs, such as "All of You" and "Love Me Now."
"He related it all back to like civic engagement and showing up at the polls," Asness said. "It was entertaining but also inspiring, which is I think what they were going for."
“I thought John Legend was amazing live. It was fun; he made me Penn proud," College sophomore Emma Davies said of the performance. "I think it definitely served its purpose to get people to register. He tied it back to that purpose very well with his performance.”
Wharton freshman Matthew Weltmann said that while the comedians were "a lot of laughs," they did not tie their performances to voter registration like Legend did.
“They did not so much have to do with voter registration, but it was great getting to see them," Weltmann said. "They were a huge draw, and I feel that the point concerning the significance of voter registration was made.”
Stand Up and Vote is a program featuring comics and performers that has been hosted at several other colleges, including at Princeton University in September 2018. While Birbiglia also performed at Princeton, Legend's performance was unique to Penn.
At Penn, Stand Up and Vote worked in partnership with Penn Leads the Vote, a nonpartisan student-led group that seeks to increase voter engagement in Penn’s student body.
“Penn Leads the Vote serves to help Stand Up and Vote on campus, providing a student voice and student body to help them," Penn Leads the Vote Director and College sophomore Eva Gonzalez said. "We have volunteers going through the lines, providing the proper tools to help them know how to register, where to register, how to fill out an absentee ballot.”
Asness said he appreciated the event's political neutrality.
"I liked that it wasn’t a partisan conversation — they weren’t siding or promoting with leftist or conservative interests in particular," he said. "It just a night of fun and raising awareness.”
Penn Leads the Vote field organizer and Wharton sophomore Rania Zakaria said last Tuesday, the organization hosted its National Voter Registration Day event, registering 255 students. Penn Leads the Vote is also hosting an election day celebration this semester to remind students to vote. Organizers said the Stand Up and Vote event was a success.
"People loved the performances, especially John Legend," Zakaria said. "We registered a lot of people, [and] it was great having a big Penn alumnus vouch for us and for civic engagement. Students will get the message from someone like him.”
Gonzales agreed that the presence of an alumnus like Legend could inspire students to vote.
“It is one thing one thing to hear from other students that it is really important to vote, it is another to hear someone who is in the public eye," she said. "It might be that push they really need to hear — that [if] John Legend cares about this, maybe I should too.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed Roy Wood Jr. as one of the performers at the event. Wood was unable to attend the event and was replaced by Josh Johnson.