It’s a comedic staple to turn serious life events into stories that are much more cheerful. This is no different for comics like Sal Seah ’13 of Vassar’s all-female sketch comedy and stand-up troupe Indecent Exposure. “Usually[when] something unfortunate happens, I see how I can turn it around,” she said. Seah, along with the other members of the group will have that opportunity on February 22, when they will host their annual Valentine’s Day show, which will feature stand-up exclusively. “It’s going to be a hearty show,” Seah proclaimed.
The group, which was formed in 2004, is relatively new to the Vassar comedy scene. “We are the youngest sketch comedy group on campus,” Seah said. It was formed to occupy voids on multiple fronts, both in terms of gender and style. “We are the only sketch comedy group on campus who also does stand-up so we occupy that niche,” Seah said.
In its current state, the group is prospering in size, and draws members from all years. “This semester, our group is at its biggest, since my freshman year, which is really exciting,” Seah explained.
Many of the women in Indecent Exposure are also involved in other all-female groups such as Grace Ashford ‘14, a member of theater troupe Idlewild, and Sierra Garcia ‘15, who will be performing in the Vagina Monologues. They also have members involved in Vassar’s all-female a cappella group, Night Owls.
At the heart of the group are Seah and Cassidy Hollinger ‘13, who have been with Indecent Exposure since their freshman years.
Seah recalls the process of joining, an experience many share in their attempt to join this sort of group.
“Like most kids who are in comedy groups right now, I tried out for all of them freshman year,” Seah said. “Indecent Exposure took me in and looking back that was the best thing that could have happened to me. These girls formed a very integral part of my college experience.” Hollinger echoed the sentiment. “Our group is like a family, as cheesy as that sounds,” she wrote in a emailed statement.
Members of the group approach creating their stand-up routines differently, and with different styles. For Seah, she bases her set in reality but with plenty of room to veer away from it.
“I describe my stand-up style as very loosely auto-biographical,” Seah said. “I love people coming up to me and asking something like, ‘Are your parents really from Iceland?’ That’s my favorite part of it: the creative liberties that stand-up offers, as well as the opportunity to tell a story.”
Though for the upcoming show, she will be doing something she hasn’t in the past. “For my upcoming set, I’m going to do an entire narrative, with a beginning, middle and end. It’s something that I’ve never done before. Usually there’s a lot of segues and different topics, but this one is going to be a pretty cohesive piece,” she said
For her comedic influences, Seah draws from a variety of comics, including Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle, and Margaret Cho, whom she is writing her thesis on. She particularly admires the depth of Pryor and Chappelle. “Their stuff just gets richer the more you think about it,” she said.
Hollinger begins with a similar impetus. ‘I refer to my stand-up style as ‘confessional comedy,’ she wrote. “I tend to base each set around some story from my weird life, and then build jokes into that.”
While there may be similarities in how they come up with content, their comedic techniques manifest diversity. “I’m not very good at writing one-liner jokes (but Sal is!),” she explained. “But I think that shows how our group fosters different styles of stand-up.” And although, writing stand-up is generally a very personal process, the members of Indecent Exposure utilize their group nature to fine-tune their individual material.
“With stand-up, we all write sets on our own, but we get together to workshop them,” Hollinger wrote. “It’s great to have that many people to listen to your set and give you input on how it can be improved.”
Although their upcoming show only showcases Indecent Exposure’s stand-up, it is only part of what they do; sketches are just as integral. Writing sketch material allows them to create comedy in more of a cooperative manner. “Sketch writing is a little more collaborative, in that often two or three of us will work on a sketch together, but the group workshop is basically the same as with stand-up,” Hollinger said.
And for this reason it’s important the group has chemistry. It is even a determining factor in their selection process of new members. “When we’re looking to add new members, we really do take into account how that person would fit in with the group,” Hollinger wrote. “We want every member to have her own flair, but we also need to have that ease and comfort in working together.”
Performing is very much engrained in the lives of the members of Indecent Exposure, acting asan outlet for their particular brands of creativity.
For a senior like Hollinger, comedy has become an integral part of her life, and she will build upon her experiences even after she leaves. “I can’t imagine not performing stand-up after graduation,” she said. “Wherever I end up, I know that I want to continue to write and perform.”