Comedy, seriously

U.Va. comedy groups don’t take humor lightly

The University is a serious school. Wahoos are serious about academics, social lives, and tradition. And when it comes to our selective comedy groups, we’re serious about humor.

Last year improv group The Whethermen accepted only three new members from 50 auditioning students. Another improv group Amuse Bouche opened for Saturday Night Live celebrity and U.Va. alumna Sasheer Zamata. La Petite Teet is a sketch comedy group that writes and practices scenes for a semester before performing them in a show.

Given the diverse array of talent among the student body, it’s not surprising extracurriculars have difficult entry processes. Each of the University’s main comedy groups — Amuse Bouche, La Petite Teet and The Whethermen — hold auditions to determine new members.

“U.Va. is a very competitive school,” said “You may very likely find yourself not getting into a group your first audition,” said fourth-year College student Justin Kaplan, a member of La Petite Teet. “Hell, a lot of La Petite Teet (including myself) were rejected their first time.”

It speaks to the achievement-oriented culture of the University that comedy, usually seen as low-stress, lighthearted and subjective, is taken so seriously at the University. But members of the University’s comedy troupes say improv is about more than cracking jokes.

“Writing, performing, and refining comedy is much, much harder than people [realize],” said second-year College student Elise Huppert, a member of both Amuse Bouche and La Petite Teet. “They think ‘Oh, someone laughed at that thing I said that one time so it must be really easy to do always and consistently.’ Sorry, but nah.”

Though La Petite Teet needs members to execute long-term projects, improv groups like Amuse Bouche and The Whethermen rely more on quick thinking and teamwork under pressure.

“We really try to focus on creating a strong group mind between our members,” said third-year College student Casey Anderson, a member of Amuse Bouche. “For improv, this kind of cooperation lets us guess what moves our scene partners will make, how we can improve, and of course, how best to entertain people.”

Though group members are apt to take their comedy seriously, some wish it were appreciated more by onlookers.

“I would be lying if I said I didn’t want it to be a little more respected,” Huppert said. “Comedy allows us to talk about things we really can’t otherwise.”

Furthermore, many group members said they feel audience members don’t realize the time and effort comedians spend perfecting their craft.

“It’s not just jumping all over each other and making funny noises,” said fourth-year College student Anna Burke, a member of The Whethermen and La Petite Teet. “Comedy needs stories, characters you can relate to, and a strong ability to think on your feet. It’s a very dedicated group of people.”

Others say comedy, at its core, isn’t serious at all.

“We take it seriously because there are a lot of funny 40-year-olds who take it seriously,” said third-year College student Charlotte Raskovich, a member of Amuse Bouche and La Petite Teet. “Posturing is fun, but when you get right down to it, we’re [just] a bunch of know-nothings who like getting together and goofing off twice a week.”

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