Yale might seem to have more improvisational and sketch comedy groups than choices in the dining hall. Each group has a quirky name, a funky uniform and around a dozen loud members. But the similarities end there. For the confused freshman (sophomore, or even junior), this guide could find a perfect match.
Ex!t Players (improv)
What distinguishes Ex!t, according to group member Kevin Roe ’06, is its “genre of games based not on the interaction of characters but simply on witty observations.” These games rely on “quick wit” and require a playfully competitive streak. The Ex!t Players take two tours a year, and recent destinations include the Northeast, the Southeast and Canada. They also do around six on-campus shows every year.
Fifth Humor (sketch)
Julie Whitesell ’05 called her group “the traditional sketch group on-campus — it’s been around the longest.” Group members write most of the sketches, which range from “mainstream” to “bizarre,” according to Whitesell. The group does two or three on-campus shows each semester, and they occasionally travel to other campuses or to comedy clubs in New York City to perform. With only two female members, Whitesell said, the group is looking for a few good women.
Just Add Water (improv)
JAW’s specialty is musical comedy: about 40 percent of their games involve music or singing, and one group member is an improvisational pianist. Nevertheless, group member Katharine Schemmer ’05 insisted that you don’t need musical talent to audition. The group does between eight and ten on-campus shows a year, and takes an annual spring tour to destinations such as San Francisco, New Orleans and the Bible Belt.
Purple Crayon (improv)
Whereas other improvisational groups play short games, most of the Purple Crayon’s shows use “long-form” comedy. A Crayon game takes up to 30 minutes and can “seem like an improvised play,” said Carolyn Kriss ’06, a member of the group. The Purple Crayon does more on-campus shows than other groups; they perform at least once a month, sometimes once a week. Biannual tours bring members everywhere from Boston to Canada.
Red Hot Poker (sketch)
Founded just two years ago, Red Hot Poker is Yale’s youngest sketch comedy group. “We try to find a balance between being smart and being accessible,” said Zac Soto ’06, a member of the group. “You don’t have to be a genius to enjoy a Red Hot Poker Show.” The group does around three shows a year, all on-campus.
Safety Mix (sketch and improv)
This group does mostly improvisational comedy, but some shows include live or video-taped sketches. True to it’s name, Safety Mix plays a “wide variety of games,” according to group member Henry Harding ’06. These include “party quirks,” “gimmick games,” “skits,” “musical games” and scene-based games. The group does five or six on-campus shows a year.
Sphincter Troupe (sketch)
This all-female sketch comedy group provides a safe environment for women to write and act, said group member Laura Gary ’05. “Some sketches are the kind you might see on SNL [Saturday Night Live] — making fun of politics or popular culture,” Gary said. “But we do a lot of raunchy stuff, too.” The group does at least two shows a year on-campus and none off campus.
Suite 13 (sketch)
Rob Spiro ’06 calls his group “edgy,” “offensive” and “dark,” and he warns that “it’s not for the weak of heart.” The group plays pranks on the Yale community, which they videotape and display at their shows. One traditional prank is “Start Smoking Day,” when group members distribute free cigarettes to students. The group does three or four on-campus shows a year, which include live sketches in addition to taped pranks.
Viola Question (improv)
This group plays mostly scene-based games that range from “ritualistic” to “free form,” according to group member Peter Cook ’05. What distinguishes the Viola Question is their commitment to questioning the way the world works. “We avoid anything cliché like the plague,” Cook said. The group performs around six on-campus shows a year, and they tour twice a year in places like California and Washington D.C.