Almost a month into the school year, I think it’s safe to say most of us are already drowning under our workload. Classes are hard, homework is piling up and none of us are really on top of anything. It’s pretty depressing.
You know what we need in our lives? Some comic relief, that’s what. Vassar’s oldest sketch comedy group, No Offense, will be performing its first show of the year this Friday, Sept. 30, at 8 p.m. in Sanders Classroom. So if you need a pick-me-up to save yourself from mounting academic stress, this is it!
Established in 1987, this long-standing group likes to bring “professionalism and kookiness” to all its productions, according to No Offense Vice President Carinn Candelaria ’18. “We want to explore all kinds of comedy, and we tend to go for a formal approach, but with a touch of silliness.”
Regarding what sets them apart from other groups, she continued, “No Offense is a great outlet for creating new things and laughing and just being happy. Being a part of the group is really an exercise in creative writing–we write a lot, taking different people’s inputs and just bettering ourselves. Many people from our group are planning on actually pursuing comedy. In fact, actor Justin Long was in No Offense during his time at Vassar.”
No Offense President Albert Muzquiz ’17 added, “I think what makes it special is the people. No Offense attracts a certain kind of person: very earnest, talented individuals, a lot of them with theatre backgrounds, making for a very professional group.” He further joked, “I would say we’re like theatre people, but more mellow.”
This year, the group accepted two new members, Aaron Linker ’19 and Anya Bernstein ’20. Last year, the troupe had 12 members but, with numerous graduating seniors and only two new acceptances, No Offense is much smaller and tighter this year.
Candelaria explained the rationale behind a smaller expansion of new members the group this year: “We wanted to rebuild the group but not go to as large a size, because it’s much easier to handle. Plus, we didn’t want to accept too many new people at once. After all, each new member should get their moment in the spotlight.”
Member Mark Lawson ’18 expressed excitement at working with the new recruits. “I’m looking forward to seeing the wickedly creative new talents of No Offense in action.”
He continued, “It’s always such a blast going through the creative processes of putting up a show, and I couldn’t feel more impressed by the current iteration of the group. After losing six seniors, I feel like we’ve gone through a type of comedic metamorphosis where we’ll get to emerge as a hilarious comedy butterfly for all of Vassar to laugh with.”
When asked how he felt about his new group, Linker mentioned, “They really take care of their sketches. I was in improv last year, so I’m familiar with them, and I genuinely appreciate them as comedians and as people.” He also talked about how he had a chance to bring his work into the group for review, and how accepting they were of new ideas.
Going off of Candelaria’s description of No Offense’s inclusive style, Linker continued, “They go for straight sketches with a hint of the bizarre and the absurd. But honestly, style varies from writer to writer. They often play with form, but without losing the quality of the humor.”
In regards to the process that goes into selecting these new members, Candelaria stated simply, “We’re looking for people who like comedy, want to create comedy and want to perform comedy.”
Along the same line of thought, Muzquiz elucidated, “We have a pretty exhaustive audition process. In the first round, we kind of sift out who’s funny and who we like and in the second round, we have them write for us. We’re really happy with the two people we’ve chosen this year.”
No Offense does two full-length shows per semester and Friday’s show is the first of these. Group members are constantly generating content, and so in addition to their official shows, they also have one “secret” show (well not so secret now, I guess) every semester, during which they bring in a lot of the material that they wouldn’t be able to put into their full-length ones.
Muzquiz commented on the changes to this year’s line-up: “We are always writing. In fact, we lost a lot of our writers when last year’s seniors graduated, so now the rest of us have to step up. But we’re excited by the prospect of doing that.”
He continued, mentioning the unique secret shows, “We’re also getting more experimental with our style, and we often try out our more risqué sketches in our secret shows, whereas we tend to stick to our surefire funny material for the big shows.”
For the show this Friday, Muzquiz revealed that they have a lot of great content, which they have carefully workshopped and practiced to perfection. As he described, “This performance is about presenting our new members; we’re so excited to have them. They get the first pick for roles, because it’s really just about showing them off.”
Linker divulged, “It’s the first show of the year, so the existing members have had a few whole months of summer to write some good material and many of them have written a lot, so it’s exciting to see what they’ve come up with.”
Candelaria joked, “We want to introduce our vibe to the freshmen, so hopefully it’s somewhat entertaining, if not funny.”
So come see Vassar College’s oldest sketch comedy group this Friday at 8 p.m., in Sanders Classroom. This troupe can’t wait to “unveil its newest and cutest members,” according to its description on Vassar’s website.
A word of advice from Muzquiz: “Come early, because seats tend to fill up quickly. We hope to see you all there!”