Comedy webshow fuses stand-up with personal lens

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VCTV is producing a new comedic webseries, Other Tragic People, that mixes standup comedy with personal stories. The show features students who have not previously performed standup comedy. Photo courtesy of VCTV

Making people laugh is a time-honored tradition at Vassar, and one that never fails to capture the eyes and ears of the com­munity. Whatever the form–stand-up, sketch or improv–the various comedy groups on campus have long since captured the eyes and ears of students. With the coming release of their latest webseries, “Other Tragic People,” VCTV will explore a new comedic medium incorporating both live performance and fictional narrative.

The series features the lives of stand-up co­medians both on and off the stage, blending humor with more subtle character study. Sar­ah Zimmerman ’16, one of the comedians who will be featured in the series, explained, “The show is in the same vein as ‘Louie’ and ‘Sein­feld,’ where it connects stand-ups and their acts to real ideas in their lives. So we will have a live stand-up show that’s hosted and filmed by the crew at VCTV, and then a few of us will write sketches based on our stand-up acts that will be packaged together with our performance to cre­ate an episode of the show.”

Creator of “Other Tragic People” Victoria Youngblood ’16 noted that the inspiration for the series stemmed from a personal desire to delve into the double-edged lives of stand-up comedians, whose thoughts are not often mentioned beyond what their routines reveal. “Comedy has become a central force in my life, and a number of people in [my life] who are very important to me are people I got to know through comedy,” she remarked. “I have come to believe deeply in what you could broadly call ‘comic relief’–the use of comedy and laughter as a tool for processing and expressing personal experience, including (or especially) the parts that are not in themselves funny.”

She continued, “This is why I’m interested in the juxtaposition of a comedian’s stand-up persona and unaffected personality. These will inevitably be distinct from one another, but I think tend to be connected by a unique per­spective on the world, which persists on-stage and off-stage.”

Similarly, producer Ashley Hoyle ’18 mused that the show hopes to offer viewers a telling account of the life of an entertainer. “‘Other Tragic People’ I think is going to be impactful for its dichotomy of portrayals,” she comment­ed. “I think people are really going to be chal­lenged to think about performance personas versus actual people and the intersections and departures of those two characters existing in singular individuals. I think it will be really a hilarious and quirky blend of comedy and trag­edy that will get people laughing and thinking as well.”

A nuanced take on comedy is not the “Other Tragic People” production team’s only goal for the project, however. Each episode will follow a different comedian. It will open with their stand-up and then continue into their daily lives. The structure is based on “Louie,” Louis C.K.’s popular television show about a fiction­alized version of himself. In the show, there is a lot of crossover between his life as a stand-up comedian and newly single father.

According to VCTV Vice President and exec­utive producer on the show Michael Iselin ’16, many of the episodes will feature students who have never performed before. He explained, “We have a few comedy people in the show as well as some people new to stand up who are working together really well.”

According to Youngblood, “In the casting process, we were especially interested in those who had not done stand-up before. Of the 10 performers in the line-up, seven have never done stand-up at Vassar.” Youngblood wanted new performers to have as many opportunities as possible. She continued, “We wanted this event to involve performers other than those cast in the web series itself. While time and re­sources only allow for a limited number of ep­isodes, it was important to maximize the num­ber of opportunities for those were interested to perform stand up.”

Zimmerman reiterated the significance of including new comics. “I think the show will showcase some people that aren’t necessarily within the official comedy scene here at Vassar, but are still comedians in their own right.”

For Hoyle, the show highlights some of the best comedic talent Vassar has. She explained, “This show and event are both a really phe­nomenal opportunity to see the best of Vassar comedy all in one place. Too often, our favor­ite campus comedians are divided by group or our funniest friends aren’t interested in actual­ly performing comedy. ‘Other Tragic People’’s cast has some of the brightest, veteran stars of campus comedy (bridging many orgs) as well as some of the most genuinely funny individuals whom have never done stand up before.”

Beyond offering the chance to perform, the show probes some serious questions. Accord­ing to Iselin, the significance goes beyond get­ting a few laughs. He explained, “It’s almost like each set is a glimpse into their lives which is super exciting.”

This glimpse can be revealing. Iselin con­tinued, “On a small scale, it says just because someone is funny or tells certain types of jokes does not mean that’s who they are. More broad­ly, the show wants to say just because people seem happy or funny or sad does not mean that’s how they actually are. Are people not per­forming in their everyday lives too?”

This kind of comedy, new to Vassar, fuses many popular methods of the craft. According to Zimmerman, “Everyone’s kind of trying a lit­tle bit of everything, and those types of dynamic performers are what this is showcasing.”

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