With La Petite Teet’s comedy, ensuing laughter is anything but small

Here at the University, we love our a cappella. We adore our artsy folk concerts on the Downtown Mall, and our live bands during afternoon philanthropies. But one of the more underrated gems which makes up the Charlottesville arts scene is comedy. This past weekend, as comedy group La Petite Teet showcased its particular brand of saucy humor in its final show of the spring semester, it became clear the skillfully-crafted laughs produced on Grounds are not to be overlooked.

La Petite Teet performs sketch comedy, which differs from improvisational comedy in that participants have time to practice their comedic scenes before they go onstage.

“With sketch, you get the unique opportunity to both write it ahead of time — in contrast to improv — and [to] act with more than one person, in contrast to stand-up,” first-year College student Elise Huppert said. “But like improv, you have to explain characters and situations quickly and generally.”

Huppert played several different roles during the show, transitioning seamlessly from innocent daughter to Puritan witchhunter. The entire performance boasted a wide variety of sketch material, from a peanut-allergy-ridden slam poet to a closeted “Wicked” fan.

The sketch-writing process is a collaborative one, cast members said.

“We spend the whole semester writing sketches and videos together,” third-year College student Anna Burke said. “We have rehearsal twice a week, and everyone comes in with either sketch ideas or first drafts. We work together to edit, read them out loud to the group, and edit again based on feedback. Starting three or four weeks before our show, we vote on which sketches make the show and start rehearsing.”

The sketches appeared both organic and finely-tuned onstage — obviously practiced, but still open to spurts of spontaneity. Director and third-year College student Walter Keady attributes this both to the natural creativity and serious discipline of the group members.

“Ideas themselves just seem to come naturally, but transforming an idea into a good sketch is entirely based on practice,” Keady said. “Writing sketches has a big learning curve. You have to try to eliminate extraneous lines or jokes, you have to have interesting and well-thought-out characters, and of course it has to make you laugh. It can’t just be ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if…,’”

The dynamics between the members onstage made up much of the show’s intrigue. The cast of La Petite Teet appeared close, willing to wail strangely in front of each other and joke confidently about potentially uncomfortable topics, like sexuality among the elderly.

“Everyone is welcoming and friendly and funny, and I’ve had some of the best times of my life in this group,” second-year College student Cherise Pack said. “If La Petite Teet had a cookout at the same time as a once-in-a-lifetime event where I would definitely win one billion dollars and learn the secrets to living a life of fortune and comfort … well, I’d go to that event, but I’d think about my Teet friends the whole time.”

Published April 18, 2014 in Arts and Entertainment, tableau

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