Meet Shea Stanley: the funny first lady of We the Ladies

By Jessica Abel

In a small, low-lit classroom at UNC-Chapel Hill late on a Monday night, a group of women are gathered in a circle of desks, typing fiercely. Each one is focused on the script in front of her, not thinking, just writing.

They are here for a comedy workshop hosted by We the Ladies, a student comedy group devoted to increasing gender diversity in comedic writing and performing. The project is led in part by Shea Stanley, who began her college comedy career her first year on campus with the group False Profits.

Now a junior, Stanley splits her time writing for False Profits and guiding both amateur and established comedians with We the Ladies.

Tonight, she’s helping writers create colorful character scenes through a free writing exercise. The click-clacking of fingernails on keyboards carries down the hall as everyone spills their last ideas onto their pages.

“OK, that’s time,” Stanley says.

She looks up and surveys the room.

“Who wants to go first?”

There’s a moment of hesitation as the writers make eye contact and smirk at one another, holding back their thoughts.

And then, shyly, someone gives it a try.

“Angry astronaut at a strip mall.”

The room fills with giggles. Then come thoughts of how to make a full scene out of a bitter Buzz Aldrin type. It would have to take place in Florida, the writers agree. The only place where astronauts, strip malls and anger overlap is Florida.

This continues with dozens of ideas.

“Goofy dentist on a rooftop.”

“Bored zookeeper in Sacramento.”

“Envious therapist at a church.”

Stanley leads the group through their thoughts, crafting dialogue and scene ideas to help make art out of the creative skeletons. She offers advice, patience and laughs as the women collaborate into the night.

Finding her comedic footing

Before Stanley founded We the Ladies or began college comedy, the Charleston, South Carolina native first tried stand-up in a smaller venue. It was at her high school’s version of a talent show, a coffee house-style setup where students could jump on stage and try out new material.

Stanley chose to mock her childhood YouTube channel by flipping through a PowerPoint of her hairstyles in the videos.

“My hair was just really bad in it,” Stanley said. “Everyone was shocked. They were like, ‘Where’s your part? What’s happening?’”

She walked offstage to laughs feeling good about her performance.

What she didn’t realize was that she’d taken nearly half an hour to finish the joke.

“My teacher came up to me and said, ‘That was great. You were up there for twenty minutes,’” Stanley said.

Now, her comedy takes a much different approach. She’ll sit down with an idea, almost always the end of a joke, and work through the script backwards. She’ll write 30 percent of a scene, leave it, and then come back with an entirely new idea. She’ll stop what she’s doing to help another writer complete her vision before returning to her own work, re-inspired.

Stanley and Ellie Rodriguez, We the Ladies’ other co-founder, hold office hours at Linda’s bar on Franklin Street. The formal name is contrasted by the relaxed way Stanley treats writing. She’ll scope out a booth, order some fully-loaded Tater Tots and sit with whoever shows up to write and exchange ideas.

“It’s a good environment to pitch ideas, especially ideas that aren’t necessarily super funny to men,” Stanley said. “False Profits is pretty collaborative, and I love all my male friends in that, but there are some things that go over better in an all-femme group.”

Mary Amos, the comedian who pitched the angry Floridian astronaut sketch in Stanley’s workshop, agreed.

“I just haven’t been in a lot of groups that are all-femme. Other than, maybe, my household,” Amos said, laughing. “I think that’s why this is so nice.”

Funny off the clock, too

Though Stanley doesn’t use her housemates as a tester audience often, her friends got to know her comedy style quickly.

Katie Otto, who shared a suite in Koury residence hall with Stanley her first year, remembers meeting her future friend for the first time.

“It was funny from the beginning because Shea was under the impression that she had met me already, but she’d really met someone else who she thought was me,” Otto said. “She was so confused. She was like, ‘Who’s this stranger in my suite?’”

To this day, they have no idea who the impostor girl could have been, or if Stanley simply forgot what Otto looked like.

“Maybe she met my mom and thought it was me? I don’t know,” Otto said, smiling. “It’s our mystery.”

Otto was also there when Stanley first discovered False Profits. They went to a stand-up comedy workshop hosted by the group during the first week of school.

“We played improv games and just chatted,” Otto said. “And even from that, I could tell Shea had such a strong ability to create comedic timing and make others laugh.”

Stanley carried that lightheartedness back to the suite where she made their home a bit of a fun house.

On the windowsill of their bathroom, she kept a copy of the Communist Manifesto for decorative purposes. She referred to the suite as “The Commune” and to all her housemates as “Comrades.”

She kept a fish as the suite pet and mascot and named it “Fishgerald.” Once, over break, she forgot to bring Fishgerald home and panic-texted Otto and her housemates to be sure he was still swimming.

Before Stanley left to study in London last semester, she gave her housemate and best friend, Mary Beth, a semester survival guide as a Christmas present. It included Stanley’s best decision-making advice and tips to living without her comedian roommate.

Safe to say, her friends and fellow comedians are happy to have her back.

Punchlines with real impact

As Stanley gets ready for senior year, her priorities are to make We the Ladies as diverse as possible, and to raise more money for local charities. She chooses a different organization to benefit from every show. Last time she collected toiletries and money for the Compass Center, a non-profit committed to supporting victims of domestic abuse. This year, she’s hoping to collect diapers and funds for a rehabilitation center in the Triangle.

The combination of charity, diversity and comedy has resonated with the Chapel Hill community. For her last show, over 100 people came to support Stanley, We the Ladies and the Compass Center.

“The day of anything I’m hosting, I always think, ‘Well, no one’s coming. I’m going to show up, and it’s going to be pathetic,’” Stanley said. “But people started showing up early. They packed the place. It was amazing.”

This, no doubt, had to do with the great cause Stanley was supporting. But it was driven by the impact she’s personally had on the Chapel Hill community. People are captivated by her self-described loud laugh, her thoughtfulness, her ambition. It’s the key to We the Ladies’ success and her legacy at Carolina.

“Shea is so funny and has so much confidence,” Otto said. “She is great at making people smile. I’m so glad I got to live with her and get to know her.”

Edited by Lily Stephens

From “Flappy Yeet” to Linker Logic: Ritwik Pavan’s path to success

By Moses Musilu

Cary native Ritwik Pavan was a 16-year-old junior at Enloe High School in Raleigh when the must-have app was “Flappy Bird,” a simple one-button game in which you navigate a bird over obstacles by tapping the screen to make the bird jump. Around the same time “Flappy Bird” went viral, a Vine video of a boy, later named Lil’ Meatball, dancing in a circle surrounded by his friends yelling “Yeet!” was gaining popularity as well.

After watching countless tutorials on application development, Pavan thought he could create his own.

In April 2014, Pavan combined elements of the viral video with the concept of “Flappy Bird.” He built a game that featured a bird, too, but also Lil’ Meatball.

In the game, Lil’ Meatball sat on top of the flying bird, jumping over each obstacle as you tapped the screen. With every tap, Lil’ Meatball would yell, “Yeet!” Pavan called the game “Flappy Yeet,” and released it to the app stores.

For Pavan, it was just something to do for fun. But he had no idea that his own app would, too, go viral.

Going Viral

In the first couple of days, “Flappy Yeet” recorded over 80,000 downloads. After a couple of weeks, that number grew to 250,000. Soon, the number exceeded over 350,000 downloads. Ritwik says he became one of the first North Carolina residents to have their app on the top three charts for Apple and Android.

“Soon everyone wanted an app made. ‘Ritwik, I want this idea! Ritwik, can you do this?’ People started to reach out to me to make their apps when I literally used tutorials to make this game. It just went viral unexpectedly.”

Inspired by his success, Pavan saw an opportunity to learn more about app development. Many people were asking for help with their ideas, and Pavan saw a big market.

Knowing he needed help, he reached out to one of his high school classmates, now head of graphic design, Casey Riemann. Pavan heard Riemann was studying computer science and already knew how to build apps.

“It didn’t take that much to convince me,” Riemann said. “It was a good idea.”

And four years later, a party of two developers became a party of 30. Linker Logic Technologies Inc. was born.

Setting up Shop

Now the company provides clients with branding, marketing, web development, app development, software development, Apple Watch development and other services. The price to have an app made by Pavan and his team ranges from $25,000 to over $100,000. Pavan says his company is valued at more than a million dollars, and will only continue to grow. They’ve developed over 50 applications for clients, including Cary Cardiology, WakeMed and other startups.

One of the first big contracts they signed with was WRAL-TV. Pavan says his experience with them changed the whole mindset of Linker Logic Technologies Inc.

“WRAL saw an article about us on the News & Observer, and around that time the Apple Watch was just hitting the market,” he recalls. “They asked us if we could create an application for them on the Apple Watch, and we agreed to tackle their challenge. We created the first local news Apple Watch application for them. That got us to the next level.”

From there, many opportunities began to unfold for the team of app developers. Pavan says it gave them a new mindset. Being adjusted to the professional environment at such a young age gave him insight on what to expect down the road.

Playing as a Team

Pavan takes his employees out for weekly lunches or dinners to keep the team’s morale up. But when bigger deals are signed and completed, Pavan enhances the reward.

“If we win a big deal or contract, I’ll take the whole team out to a nice dinner spot,” he says. “Sometimes we travel. I’m definitely trying to get company retreats happening as we expand. We work hard, play hard.”

Every Sunday, Pavan spends the day in his Franklin Street office. Pictures of himself and past clients surround the walls. Meetings with the UNC Board of Trustees, shaking hands with Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman and even business entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk can be seen smiling back at you. In his phone, he has pictures of his trip to Portugal, and after a couple of swipes, you’ll see him meeting Portugal’s Prime Minister, António Costa. Pavan says all his encounters with successful people made him realize one thing.

“They were all normal people at one time,” he said. “They just had a vision or a goal. Now they’re just normal people who have met their goals allowing for them to be successful and famous or whatever you want to say. They’ve made me realize that the challenge and struggles will be worth it by the end.”

Pavan doesn’t intend on stopping any time soon. His team of developers continues to grow, while adding new projects every few weeks. He says they’re working on nine ongoing projects and expect more to come.

Thinking Ahead

So, what’s next for Linker Logic in the future?

“I see the company expanding rapidly in the next five years,” Riemann said. “We have just opened offices in Raleigh and India, and are in the process of building a dedicated, full time team to service the triangle area. I see only greatness coming our way, and I look forward to the road ahead.”

Pavan wants the company to expand on their own ideas.

“I hope to bring a lot of in-house developments for Linker Logic,” he says. “There’s a lot of good that can be done in this world with technology, and over the past four years, my team and I have gained the funding, connections, and experience to do that.”

Edited by Lily Stephens

Twitch, streamers, and profits: discovering the world of eSports

By Heather Prizmich

Hands over his face, he can barely look at the game playing out in front of his eyes. It is now in double overtime. Everything is too intense, so he rests his head on his desk and listens to the crowd’s reaction. He turns up the volume to the point it shakes the painting of the Millennium Falcon hanging behind him. The final shot is taken, and it’s a tournament winner. The Boston crowd goes crazy and so does Brendon McGay.

This wasn’t a Celtics or Bruins game. This was a major tournament for a video game called Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The winner was an all-American team called Cloud9, which you’ve probably never heard of unless you partake in the 21st century pastime of eSports.

Millions of people worldwide were watching this international tournament, but they weren’t tuned in to ESPN or any other network. They were all sitting in front of computers watching a live stream on the website Twitch.

Twitch is a live-streaming video platform owned by a subsidiary of Amazon, and it has been active for seven years. The site primarily focuses on video game live streaming, including broadcasts of eSports competitions, in addition to creative content such as “IRL” (in real life) streams, which are like reality TV, but live and unedited.

Like many YouTubers who make a living by creating videos that are monetized, the same goes for gamers on Twitch. On Twitch, you can subscribe to a person’s channel for $4 a month or watch an ad or two during the live stream. McGay, a software engineer, live streams on Twitch almost nightly and makes enough to pay off a few smaller bills every month. It’s not enough to live on, but he said that is his dream.

“Make no mistake, I love my job and I love coding, but if I could play video games for a living I would. It’s like asking avid sports watchers if they’d like to play baseball or basketball for a living instead of their mundane nine-to-five jobs,” McGay said.

McGay is in the process of starting his own podcast on gaming in the hopes that it gains him subscribers who will watch his podcast and then explore his other content.

Twitch vs. YouTube

The only dilemma for him is deciding on which site to do the podcasts: YouTube or Twitch. Both sites pay between 10 to 30 cents per ad, but YouTube has more traffic on its page, which can increase the likelihood of people watching a video. As for Twitch, it’s where the gamer base is. Fewer people are on Twitch, but they are the people who would most likely want to watch a gaming podcast.

Other gaming companies like Rooster Teeth publish most of their content on YouTube, where there is a larger viewership, but individual employees of Rooster Teeth who have a large following stream on Twitch.

The UNC-Chapel Hill eSports club streams games and competitions on Twitch. Club member Eugene Zhang said the club loves Twitch because its format is gamer-friendly and members don’t all need to be in the same room to stream a game together.

Zhang said, “We find Twitch to be great for our club because it is great at promoting our club, because we’ll have viewers who are still in high school watch us and will want to join the club if they come to UNC. We have even seen support from people across campus who aren’t members of the club, but are gamers who watch our live streams, which makes us feel good as a group.”

The UNC-CH eSports club does have a YouTube channel where they post some videos highlighting events they have held, but the view counts are low on those videos compared to the numbers of viewers they get on Twitch.

The North Carolina State eSports club has a similar attitude when it comes to which site it prefers to use. Club member Cara Garrison said Twitch is superior to YouTube when it comes to gaming.

“I love Twitch. It’s been the better option for me when I want to watch live streams and for our club when we want to live stream,” Garrison said. “We also get to watch the live streams of teams we compete against in tournaments, which is great when preparing for competitions.”

The risk of demonetization

Another deciding factor between Twitch and YouTube is the inconsistency of their rules for videos and streams. Videos can easily lose out on ad money if the content is flagged by YouTube’s software, but the rules about which content is or isn’t advertiser-friendly is not always the same for every video. People have been especially critical of YouTube for this issue.

McGay is concerned that his videos may get flagged on YouTube, because he and his friends will more than likely use profanity on his podcast. He said that’s how they talk in everyday life, and he wouldn’t want his podcast episodes missing out on ad money because he and his friends were acting like themselves.

“I don’t want to host a PG podcast that is censored like if I were on television and needed to make everything FCC friendly. My friends and I curse like most 20-something-year-old guys,” McGay said. “The people watching my podcast will most likely be people who speak the same way my friends and I do, so this should be a non-issue.”

According to Newzoo, a market intelligence company that specializes in the eSports industry, the expected revenue of eSports by 2020 is expected to be $1.5 billion.

Leaning back in a chair with a vape pen in his hand, McGay said, “I’m excited to see the gaming industry boom. I really like those numbers, and I want a piece of that pie.”

Edited by Lily Stephens