Comedy groups at Wesleyan have been cracking students up for years, but is the University’s comedy scene itself in danger of cracking?
According to leaders of comedy groups on campus, while many of such groups did experience a slump in interest last year, this semester has seen a renaissance.
“I’m pretty sure I used the word ‘crisis’ when talking about it,” said Blake Rosenbaum ’12 of Gag Reflex, one of the long-form improv troupes. “We were calling up other groups and asking them if they were even going to perform [that] year.”
Jack Gallagher ’12, a member of the same group, agreed.
“Crisis may be a strong term, but there were worries,” he said.
Last fall, there was a surprisingly low turnout for auditions, according to Gallagher. Gag Reflex wasn’t the only group with that problem.
Punchline member Jake Hunt ’12 agreed that last semester was problematic. We had a hard time getting the word out and getting people to audition.”
New Teen Force, another long-form improv troupe, did not even perform in the fall, as they didn’t have enough people in the troupe. Rosenbaum added that while there was a definite dip in the number of students who auditioned, there was never a dip in quality.
So what was the cause of this decline in participation? Gag Reflex mainly attributes the drop to a removal of a comedy showcase from orientation. Prior to last year when orientation was shortened from one week to three days, there was an administration-sponsored comedy showcase, similar to the a capella showcase seen by many students. But for fall 2011, the event was eliminated.
As Rosenbaum put it, “Improv got shafted by the adminstration.”
Without the administration-sponsored showcase, the troupes were left to organize it themselves. To make matters worse, the groups were given short notice that they would be cut out of the orientation program. They managed to get a few, but not all, of the groups together for a makeshift show in front of the Nics Lounge, lit by headlights of a car, but the exposure just wasn’t the same.
“It was a big change not having it,” Gallagher said. “I think it’s hard to say exactly why there was a dip…we can’t prove that it was because we didn’t have a showcase.”
Rosenbaum and another Gag Reflex member, Robby Hardesty ’12, were convinced that the absence of the showcase was the primary issue.
“I blame it entirely,” Hardesty said. “It just seems that the administration doesn’t care as much about comedy as they do about a capella.”
Still, Gag Reflex has nothing against the many singing groups on campus.
“We’re not bitching about a capella,” Rosenbaum said. “I tried out for acapella. I didn’t get in.”
New Teen Force and Punchline also faced internal issues. New Teen Force was unable to perform last fall because too many members were abroad. Punchline faced personnel problems of their own.
“Punchline was in danger of disbanding itself. I’d say that would be the biggest reason there was a slump last year,” Hunt said.
One thing the groups all agree on is that the comedy crisis is most definitely over. This year after auditions, all the groups are larger by at least two members and Punchline has recruited nine new talents.
“The comedy scene has been enlivened by the current freshmen class,” Solomon Billinkoff ’14 said. “This is only the beginning of the laughter that will carry us on its Banana Boat through the treacherous seas that collectively form our undergraduate years.”
Jana Heaton ’14 identified a different cause of the crisis.
“Comedy on campus is most definitely in crisis,” she claims. “There are too many people here who are effing hilarious.”