Comedy on Vassar’s campus almost always leads one to think of the packed Sanders Auditorium, with students eagerly lining the stairs. Additionally, there is always a bunch of disillusioned kids who came five minutes early and still didn’t get space to sit. Shows by all eight of Vassar’s comedy groups are eagerly attended throughout the year, so one can imagine the rush for this past Saturday’s Annual Comedy Preview Show, which is the only time that the entire array of styles in Vassar’s comedy scene is synthesized in one show, as all the groups come together to perform in a single space.
On September 2, from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m., an overflowing Sanders Auditorium saw performances by sketch comedy groups No Offense, the LiMiT and Happily Ever Laughter (better known as HEL); Improv groups Vassar College Vassar Improv (VCVI) and Casual Improv; the all-women/non-binary sketch and stand-up group Indecent Exposure; stand-up group Comedy Normative; and newly renamed improv and stand-up focused Nitrous Oxide.
As each troupe spent about 10 minutes on stage, they provided the audience—especially the first years—with a small taste of their group’s particular niche and the type of comedy they engage in. Vassar’s plentiful comedic opportunities for Improv, Sketch and stand-up came to light during the show. President of Casual Improv Matt Stein ’18 [Full Disclosure: Stein is the Co-Arts Editor for The Miscellany News] , explicated how he views this particular category of comedy: “Improv is life. It’s non-scripted and it’s what we do every day. Joining an improv group is essentially like taking a life class.”
Ranging from the self-deprecating and ironic humor of Comedy Normative member Austin Han ’19 to Indecent Exposure’s subtly mocking style to the pure silliness and spontaneity that is part and parcel of improv, the show had a bit of everything.
Indecent Exposure member Bianca Barragan ’19 performed her iconic Sharkboy and Lavagirl set (which I’ve personally seen three times now, and it’s hilarious as always). Following her, Nitrous Oxide asked the audience several arbitrary questions and then innovatively incorporated the myriad of out-of-context answers into their improv piece to create unwittingly brilliant jokes.
The LiMit did a hilarious sketch on smoking that escalated rapidly and left everyone in splits. President of The LiMit Aiden Lewy ’18, in his fourth year as a member of the group, commented on the group’s style: “We focus on absurd or edgy comedy. I think what makes us special is that we aren’t afraid to really venture out of the box and experiment when it comes to questioning what is conventionally considered funny.” Emphasizing that The LiMit, like through its unusual name stylization, strives to push the boundaries of the definition of comedy, Lewy continued, “We take risks; we like to be shocking. Comedy on this campus has been an incredibly rewarding experience.”
In tandem, HEL’s “Not So Puritans” sketch, previously filmed and played for us on screen, was a decidedly raunchy masterpiece that delved into the sexual fantasies of a nun and a priest, and left audience members cringing between uncontrollable bursts of laughter.
HEL President, Becca Slotkin ’18, elucidated the thought process behind many of HEL’s sketches: “We take our humor from things going on in the world. We try to look at global topics, historical trends or pop culture, and put a humoristic spin on it.” She further elaborated that the group likes to put on accessible sketches and videos for their audiences, which is partly why one of their sketches was a parody of Scooby-Doo. “For this preview show in particular, we hope that our content seems fun and relatable to the freshmen,” explained Slotkin.
No Offense Co-President and VCVI President Carinn Candelaria ’18 also expressed her sentiments regarding the impact she hopes the show will have on freshmen: “We want freshmen to feel excited about comedic performance opportunities at Vassar; we hope to inspire them. Or at the very least, we hope to get people excited about attending shows if they’re not performing in them.”
Sharing her own experiences, Candelaria expanded, “I’ve been in both No Offense and VCVI for all four years and I’ve realized that they’re my little nook at Vassar. It would be wonderful if incoming freshmen could find that reprieve in the comedy scene the way so many of us did.”
Explaining that rehearsals and shows are about constantly building off of each other’s energies and ideas, Candelaria emphasized that they just want people with a positive energy for the group to be able to play off of. “Many of us had no experience when we first tried out, but we learned from each other,” she added. “We don’t want people without experience to feel deterred from auditioning.”
While auditioning for comedy troupes may seem terrifying, there’s a reason that the performers made it look so easy to put themselves out there during the preview show. Despite being an assorted group of people with different senses of humor, their confidence seemed to sprout from a common, unifying source: they were all enjoying themselves immensely. As Lewy humorously mentioned in his interview, “We love to have fun on stage, and to make sure the audience has fun…but that’s secondary.”