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Boston University Student Wins Gig at 'TBS Just For Laughs'

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BU is on a roll this summer. First a sophomore gets named the prettiest girl in America and now a rising senior gets named the funniest college kid in the country. While the Emerson College team won the Rooftop Comedy's National College Comedy Competition, it was another student from Boston who was selected as the contest's overall MVP.

Twenty one-year-old psych major Nick Peine was selected by a panel of judges: Conan producer J.P. Buck, Just For Laughs Director of Programming Robbie Praw, as well as comedians Kumail Nanjiani and Janet Varney. Peine was The Chosen One out of twelve MVP nominees -- who were narrowed down from hundreds upon hundreds -- thanks to the fifth annual nationwide competition and their 32-campus talent search last spring.

And it's not the first time the Minnesotan has been celebrated for his skill. At the end of 2011, the royal jester was crowned the judge's pick at BU's Funniest Student Competition. But this win in particular came with some pretty remarkable rewards courtesy of TBS who joined Wendy's in sponsoring the NCCC (because the best way to watch a Tyler Perry show is with a Baconator in your mouth).

Peine, who "basically worshiped" Sinbad's HBO special when he was five, won a VIP trip to TBS Presents Just For Laughs, Chicago. Not only did he get to watch the biggest stars in comedy at the biggest joke convention in the world, but he also got a five-minute spot to perform at the official festival on June 16th. TBS flew him out on the 14th, guaranteeing him "access to festival performances, VIP parties, quality shmoozing and a bunch of cool freebies." Well, the network delivered.

Peine's review of the evening? One word: "Amazing." Okay, a few more words: "Everything I thought it could be and more."

"They paid for everything," said Peine the day following his performance. "The hotel threw parties for us every night. Last night I was chatting with Jeff Ross, Andy Kindler, and Chris D'Elia." Peine was also escorted through a series of interviews, which he called "a lot of fun."

"My mom visited me and got pulled into an interview with TBS LIVE," said Peine. "It was a great time all around."

Though his "influences change on a daily basis," Peine says his "biggest influence as a performer" is another Nick from Minneapolis. Upon seeing the star of his own self-titled Comedy Central show, Nick Swardson, become "a big name from Minnesota," Peine "wanted to do exactly what he did."

And so he started. Swardson -- who's face you'll recall from just about every Happy Madison production -- discovered the stand up at a Monday open mic night at Acme Comedy Company. It was there in the Twin Cities that Swardson saw that the then-19-year-old Peine, in his own words, "has great jokes and a great stage presence."

Peine even got to open for one of his comedy heroes in what he calls his "biggest gig" -- opening for Nick Swardson at the Boston College Arena. Even two BC comics in the Improv Boston green room (before competing with BU in the 2012 Live Showcase Round of the NCCC) recognized Peine from his packed-house performance in the spring of 2011.

"Nick is super funny," said Swardson, surely in reference to Peine and not himself. He says he owes Swardson "a huge debt" and that his "invaluable" friendship has helped Peine "handle [him]self as a comic" and "break into LA." Peine added that "working with him now is a huge thrill."

Ted Bender, Peine's manager in Beverly Hills, called the NCCC victory and subsequent TBS-sponsored performance "huge" and "exciting." He considers Just For Laughs as "basically the pinnacle of validation in comedy" and believes "everybody who's gone on to be anybody" has gone through "JFL in some form."

"But to get to take your first step this early puts him ahead of his game," said Bender, who works at Prinicpato-Young Entertainment. Bender even called his discovery of Peine in May of 2011 "a pretty lucky break for me actually." On summer vacation from BU's College of Arts and Sciences, a 20-year-old Peine scored a slot at The Improv in Los Angeles. Bender, whose company has repped some of the funniest dudes in Hollywood -- like Jonah Hill, Will Arnett, Ed Helms, Rob Riggle, and David Wain -- happened to be in the crowd.

"He went up and he was just light years ahead of his age," said Bender of Peine's performance. He had never heard of the young comic before, so he introduced himself after the show and was shocked to learn how "young he actually was."

A kid who's "that comfortable on stage is a pretty rare thing," he said. Bender added that after learning Peine was "developing his act," the two stay connected so that Peine is preparing for graduation from Boston U "while preparing for his jump to the pros." And if he's not in a psych class or in his dorm room or in the dining hall, he's somewhere killing the crowd.