As students begin to cram for the final week of midterms, Julia Bond '09 and her stand-up comedy arrive back on campus, giving Bowdoin students the opportunity to take a break and be entertained by an alumna who's kept humor at the center of her life.

Since graduating last spring, Bond—a Neuroscience major—began working at New York City's Mount Sinai Hospital, researching the development of the blood and circulatory system with a focus on embryonic blood cells.

However, when not in the lab, Bond has spent her evenings, weekends and any other free time in what she describes as "dark, dingy basements full of cranky, disillusioned ,middle-age guys," chasing after her passion for comedy.

Pursuing comedy in New York thus far has meant filling her time around her nine-to-five job with comedy classes and open mic performances. Currently, she is taking classes at two theatres, a general improvisation class at the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre and a class on patterns in improvisation at the Magnet Theatre. Through these classes Bond has made connections in the New York comedy scene, she said the "cool thing" about comedy is that "once you meet enough people, you can move to doing comic-produced shows, a preferable forum to open mics."

Bond's journey to comedy was unintentional and organic. After growing up in the Boston suburb of Lexington, Mass., Bond followed what she calls the "'Mass' migration" north to Bowdoin. When she arrived on campus, Bond was set on being a neurosurgeon and being involved in a cappela.

She set forth into both, filling her schedule with science classes and a cappela, joining Ursus Versus and founding Bella Mafia. However, at the suggestion of a friend, she also decided to audition for Improvabilities her first year. Although her only previous dramatic experience was in high school musicals, Bond made the group, sparking her first interest in comedy.

Bond continued to do a cappela, science and improv through her first and sophomore years at Bowdoin; however, after taking time off during her sophomore year to go to Australia to study and travel, Bond started to question her formerly unshakable plans to become a neurosurgeon. Realistically, it was too late to alter her major, so instead she found herself filling more and more of her time with improv-related work.

Concurrently, The Improvabilities lost a "really strong class" with the graduation of the Class of 2008, creating an adjustment period in the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year as the group's leaders shifted. Bond found this to be a pivotal moment in her developing relationship with comedy when she realized that she'd become a "key part of the group and began taking more risks with [her] work."

At the same time, Bond started to get involved in other types of comedy work. Working with Ben Johnson '11, Bond got involved in Bowdoin Cable News' program, called "What Just Happened?, "a reality comedy show" based off of the British show, "Trigger Happy TV." In promoting the show, Bond created her first piece of written comedy in the form of a promotional sketch. Although they did not end up using the ad, the experience was indicative of the increased focus and intensity of Bond's interest in comedy.

Around the same time, Bond's first stand-up routine emerged. Sitting in the back of a Bowdoin van on the way back from an ultimate Frisbee tournament in Georgia, Bond got out of the van when the Bowdoin team stopped at a rest stop. Inside the rest stop was a truly "shocking" amount of graffiti, inspiring Bond to write her first joke, which she noted has "since been retired."

At the end of her senior year, with fellow comedians Jeremy Bernfeld '09, Tanner Harvey '09 and Sean Kleier '09, and the logistical help of Isa Abney '11, she organized a comedy show and took to the stage for the first time as a stand-up comedian.

Bond said she saw her graduation just a few months later as a sign of "how much possibility your life has—just a beginning, really," rather than the "oh my god moment" it is for so many students.

Realizing that she was not ready to go to graduate school for science, Bond instead decided to "chase the dream" of comedy—though she said she hates that phrase.

She said, it "sounds like a Will Smith movie," but noted that it "is an appreciation of "how young [she] is and [her] ability to go after something that might be totally elusive."

When she tells people she is trying to be a stand-up comedian, she gets varied responses. She said that her parents were incredibly supportive, "although obviously it helps that the hospital provides health benefits and things like that."

Others say "Oh my god, I can't wait until you're famous!" which Bond said comes with its own stresses.

Putting yourself on the comedy track, said Bond, means that people are going to be disappointed for you if you don't achieve celebrity.

Bond said that in reality, however, "once you get in the trenches you realize that your own Comedy Central Show is not a realistic basically what I'm saying is if I don't get famous its not because I'm not good, people," she joked.

Bond said she has been challenged by "putting [herself] out there by committing to something so strongly and also [by] the inherent challenges of comedy."

The challenges of comedy are "immense," said Bond. "Show business in general is a really tough life, even if you have success, it's still really a day to day life without much certainty."

Additionally, Bond speaks of the "bizarre environment" created by the "pretty severe" gender split in stand up comedy. She explained that a typical open mic would have 30 people, maybe two of which would be women.

Given this discrepancy, many female comedians are seen as women first. Understanding the gendered nature of the comedy scene, Bond said she hopes she can break this stereotype and be seen first as a comedian, and a woman as an extra bonus.

Despite these challenges, she is rewarded by thinking about what her life would be like were she not living the hospital-by-day, comedy-by-night life. She said she would "probably be in Boston in a lab, playing Frisbee."

Returning to Bowdoin is a bit like coming full-circle for Bond. She looks forward to knowing everyone in the audience and to being able to tell a joke about the Colby mascot to an audience that will undoubtedly understand.

Bond said she "loves performing, and loves doing stand-up."

"The thing about comedy," she said, "is that you get to decide a lot of things for yourself—when you're ready to start charging for your act, when you want to make a Web site, when or you want to put out a CD. Am I a stand up comedian in that I have material and do shows and suffer through open mic nights a lot? Yes. But am I a professional? No. Not that I really know where that line is."

Julia Bond will be performing her stand-up comedy tonight in Kresge Auditorium at 8 p.m.