Everyone needs a laugh sometimes. For all those stuck inside on the weekends writing papers, studying for tests and working on homework, few phrases can ring as true. Adding the weather changing and the plague going around, a prescription of comedy could help. In other words, while there might not be a happily ever after with midterms around the corner, there can still be a Happily Ever Laughter (HEL) show.
On Saturday, Feb. 27 at both 8 and 10 p.m., HEL, one of Vassar’s sketch comedy groups, will be performing their first show of the semester, “Rated E for Everyone,” in Sanders Classroom. Running for less than an hour, the show will include a variety of comedic sketches and provide an opportunity for students to take a break from homework and essays to enjoy some good comedy. HEL’s two show times are at the same times as No Offense’s show, “Supernatural,” which is in Blodgett Auditorium, so everyone can see them back-to-back.
Co-President of HEL Kyle Whelan ’16 said about the group’s style of comedy, “We are Vassar’s only sketch group with a three letter name! But I think that HEL is special for how we make comedy on both a personal and collective level. Each member usually writes sketches on their own and brings them to reading meetings. When we get together to read, the group offers editing tips, advice and group input. Our humor style is a bit harder to pin down. Each member of our group finds comedic inspiration from different things. HEL has had lots of hard hitting shorter sketches in the past, but this show’s sketches are longer.”
HEL performs two full-scale shows each semester. Founded 22 years ago, the group is led by Whelan and co-president Sophie Hessekiel ’16 with all 12 members writing, directing and acting in sketches and two or three videos of their own creation. Despite having two presidents, the group conducts itself in an open, democratic manner, with everyone helping each other out with sketch ideas, read-throughs and helpful edits.
Hessekiel, who has been a member for three years, remarked on how the group has changed her: “HEL has completely changed my life at Vassar. I joined as a sophomore, and it ignited a love for comedy I didn’t even know I had! The group is always changing as people graduate and new people join, but what’s constant is that we can always make each other lose our minds laughing. It’s so great to be part of an ensemble of people who are both your creative partners and your friends!”
In preparation for their shows, HEL has, besides their weekly meetings, a picking meeting where they democratically select 12 to 15 sketches that will feature in their upcoming show. The writers of these sketches will then act as directors and cast the other members in it before rehearsing. Once the sketches are on their feet, the group will collaborate to determine the order of the sketches.
Accepted into the group as a new member in the fall, Dakota Lee ’19 described the environment as welcoming from the onset. “HEL has been a wonderful experience. Right from the get-go, I’m talking like, right from the audition they were inviting and open, they being the existing members. It didn’t take long at all to feel like part of the group, especially since right when we got picked we basically had to start prepping for our first show. So it was really cool to just be put in like that. It is a very democratic environment, I feel.”
These sketches cover a broad spectrum of comedic styles, making HEL’s style both multifarious and overall enjoyable. With parodies, blackouts, slapstick and various experimental sketches, HEL gives a well-rounded experience of the many subgenres of comedy.
“I have been in the org for four years and it has been a huge part of my college experience. Past members of HEL, current too, have taught me pretty much everything I know about comedy,” Whelan reflected on his time in HEL. “There are some tricks that you learn over the years to make a good joke better or even turn a flop into a success. I feel like HEL caught me at a great time and I’ve grown a lot by being a part of it. The best part in my opinion has been being surrounded by consistently funny people for my college experience and making great things with them.”
Along with the other sketch comedy groups, No Offense, Indecent Exposure and The Limit, and the improv groups, VC Vassar Improv and Committed, HEL creates a comedy community with a variety of styles and forms that provide entertainment for everybody. Just as the student theatre environment provides great drama for Vassar, these comedy groups give everyone the opportunity to laugh and enjoy themselves in the talent that Vassar so has to offer.
Auditions for these groups happen every fall, and they’re always looking for people to join. Additionally, comedy shows often fill up fast and some students even have to be turned away due to the lack of room, so it’s always good to arrive roughly 15 minutes early before the show starts.
As this weekend’s “Donner Party Kidz!” very successful reception proved, Vassar students love the comedy scene. HEL is on deck with a show the cast is excited to perform and a campus in need of some serious laughter. The group joins Casual Improv and Comedy Normative, which are open for anyone to join.
Believing Vassar’s comedy groups to be essential to a healthy and fun campus life, Lee concluded: “The comedy scene at Vassar is an important one. It is entertainment, but it’s also just comfort. In the midst of essays, theses, extracurricular activities, etc. sometimes you just need to sit back, relax and laugh your ass off. That’s something we are glad to do, and we have fun doing it. We love to make people laugh. It’s an art-form that’s rewarding unlike anything else.”