HEL show to launch Vassar comedy season

Happily Ever Laughter (HEL), one of Vassar’s many comedy groups, will kick off a semester of laughs this weekend with a night of sketch comedy.

The show will be performed this Friday and Saturday, September 27 and 28 in the Susan Stein Shiva Theater at 9 p.m. HEL’s veteran members Nick Pearle ’14, junior Al-Donn Riddick ’15, and sophomore Kyle Whelan ’16 assured that both performers and viewers have a lot to look forward to.

This will be the debut performance of HEL’s newest members, who joined the group by audition early this month. “We have three new members, they’ve all written really funny things already,” Kyle Whelan ‘16 said. “We’re very excited about them. They each bring different strengths to the group, they each come from different comedic backgrounds,” Nick Pearle ‘14 added.

The three new members consist of Becca Janou ’16, Sophie Hessekiel ’16, and James Pedersen ’17. For Pedersen, who is not only new to the group but new to Vassar, HEL is turning out to be an especially good environment for developing new relationships and integrating himself as a community member.

“I am the only freshman in HEL, and so I am really grateful that the rest of the team has adopted me,” he wrote in an emailed statement. “What starts off as a meeting quickly becomes several really funny people just kind of hanging out,” he wrote.

Janou joined HEL this year already familiar with the group from an audience member’s perspective.

“I saw most of their shows last year, and thought each one was funnier than the last,” Janou said. She, too, is enthusiastic about the group energy. “I’m really excited to be a part of HEL…I hope I can keep up with the creative powers at work in the group,” she said.

The Shiva show this weekend will be an opportunity for the rest of the Vassar community to join HEL members, veterans and rookies alike, in one of these humor-filled hangouts. The show will take the form of a combination of videos and live sketches, all of which are original material written by group members.

As for subject matter, HEL makes an effort to incorporate a range of styles into their shows, from absurdity and silliness to more reality-based humor, such as political commentary—without ever getting too heavy. Sketches are all written and rehearsed in advance, but members agreed that no one is ever sure what kind of pleasant—or hilarious—surprises will arise. Pearle said, “We’re going to be just as surprised as the audience is.” Whelan assured, “Expect the unexpected.”

HEL is especially excited about their venue, as the Shiva is a space that they feel lends itself to enhanced production value and technical flexibility. They are eager to take advantage of the many theatrical elements they have to work with. “There’s dynamic lighting, sound and there’s a lot of construction involved,” said Riddick.

Although the most important part of a sketch is the humor infused in the writing and brought to life with performance, having access to a set of relatively sophisticated theatrical components can only help a comedy show. Tools like sound effects and the Shiva’s PA system, for example, open up the doors to additional jokes and sketch premises. The members do the technical set-up in the Shiva themselves, using the many offerings of the space to frame their sketches in the best possible way. Whelan added, “It’s a lot of fun, but a lot of work too.”

Besides the comedy preview show, a showcase of Vassar’s comedy groups that went up the first weekend of the school year, this HEL show will be the first comedy group performance of the semester. The group’s members will get to see their new combination of comedic strengths take life on stage, while the rest of the student body will get their first dose of Vassar comedy for the year.

“I can’t wait to share what has amazed me all this week and I can’t wait to get out in front of an audience!” wrote Pedersen in an emailed statement.

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