Over thirty years old, No Offense carries a distinct comedic legacy on campus. The group, which featured the notable Justin Long among its ranks as well as alumni now involved in Chicago’s Second City, will be putting on a sketch filled show in Sanders Auditorium March 1st and 2nd at 9pm and 10pm respectively.
Although now featuring a well-stocked group, co-President Emily Breeze recounts the prospect of a small group at the beginning of this year. “Last year we lost six seniors, so we started the year off with five people which was scary,” she said.
But the group which counts three freshman, one sophomore, two juniors, and three seniors among its ranks, was able to rebuild through their yearly audition process. Breeze notes that they tried to create a group with strength in the years to come.
“When we do auditions we try to take as many young people as possible because we want longevity and we want it to be consistent from year to year,” she said.
But finding solid members is a difficult process because of the nature of sketch comedy. “The hard thing is that we write and perform all of our own pieces so there are a lot of factors that come into the audition,” Breeze said. “Really good comedy can only happen if you have really great actors, but the difficult thing is to find someone who can write and act.”
However, the existing members of the group don’t expect those trying out to have a polished grasp of the process, particularly when it comes to actually creating sketches. “Very few people before coming to college have written a comedic script so we really sort of throw them into a fire pit,” Breeze explained. “We don’t expect any sort of finished project.”
Breeze explains that acting is of course an important aspect of its members repertoires, but in their writing abilities they are not as concerned with its comedic value as you might expect. “We look for someone who can act and perform and is comfortable on stage,” she elaborated. “We look for someone who can write well, but can mostly tell a story in their writing.”
In the audition process, those trying out have a mere twelve hours to write a sketch. But once in the group, members have significantly more time and the methods are different. They first meet in a group where they have an opportunity to bounce ideas off of each other, using what Emily called an “idea board.” Frank Hoffman ‘15 is appreciative of the variety and absurdity of ideas that the group brings forward.
“I wish people could see everything that gets thrown around at the meetings” he wrote in an emailed statement. But even more satisfying than the process for them is what the finished pieces evoke.
“Despite all the fun we have when ideas are being put on the table and developed, the greatest feeling I get is when I hear the laughs during a show and know that we collectively made the best decision on a sketch.” he wrote.
After meeting, they have time to write their sketches, though considerably more time than twelve hours. “People will go off on their own, write sketches together and then bring them to the group,” Breeze said.
After completing initial drafts of their sketches, they bring them back to the group to review and edit them. “We read it like a staged reading and then give suggestions,” she said. And according to Breeze, the group process of editing is crucial. “It’s really hard to edit your own sketch, it’s almost impossible,” she said. “You have to kill your own baby, basically. So, luckily we have a group that will do that for you.”
As far as her own sketches, Breeze notes that it is easiest to write about material that she is familiar with, even if it seems like it may seem abstract or foreign to audiences. “The best writing advice is write what you know,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if it seems too cerebral to you because audiences will laugh at circumstantial things.”
And everyone in the group has their own distinct comedic styles and idiosyncasies. “Everyone on this team has a very unique and original view on comedy, yet for the shows we always manage to incorporate a piece of each member, whether it’s in the jokes themselves, the performances, the videos, or Brian Muir running across the stage in his underwear,” Hoffman wrote.
And this all adds up for a unique and fulfilling show. “The students here always get their money’s worth,” Hoffman noted. “Yes, I know the shows are free.”
Ultimately, Breeze and the rest of No Offense are proud of the camaraderie that the group emphasizes among all members, regardless of seniority.
“Possibly the best thing about No Offense is the legacy that we have and the community that’s built between classes,” she said.
Hoffman echoed his approval. “I can honestly say there’s nothing I look more forward to during the week than getting together with some of the funniest kids I’ve ever met and laughing at how weird we are for a few hours at a time.” he wrote.