Cody Skinner, Contributing Photographer

Amidst the chaos of the midterm season, a time filled by grueling several-hour study sessions, Yalies are prone to finding themselves overwhelmed, overworked and teetering on the brink of collapse. Fortunately, on Oct. 7, Fifth Humour and Red Hot Poker offered welcomed respite in the form of good old-fashioned comedic therapy.

Donning their signature matching green baseball jerseys and red Converse, respectively, two of Yale’s premier sketch comedy groups, Fifth Humour and Red Hot Poker, took to their stages on Oct. 7th. Their performances marked their returns since their joint recruitment show, “Back to Skool Special,” on Sept. 3, and their first performances alongside the class of 2027 taps.

Fifth Humour

Fifth Humour kicked off the evening at 8 p.m. with their show, “Five-Trick Pony,” held in room 101 of Linsly-Chittenden Hall. Their sketches debuted their five newest “Stallions:” Charles Englander ’27, Matt Letourneau ’27, Alexis Mburu ’27, Dora Molot ’27 and Giacomo Sotti ’27. The performances, all relatively safe roles, gave new members the opportunity to “feel out” the stage (cursing in front of a large audience, for one) without venturing too deep into untrodden territory. 

Taboo subject matter was circumnavigated carefully. Offhand lines about sex, race and gender, were themselves the butt of jokes, although 5H avoided broaching any of the subjects for further commentary. But don’t be mistaken, their jokes don’t dawdle; every sketch lands a punch.

The first act of the night featured an exceedingly candid and sexually adventurous character, played by Roy Kohavi ’26,  sharing their experiences on a sexual health panel. The sketch’s humor cleverly echoed the recent fake Yale Health “masturbation” notices that were disseminated around Yale’s campus only weeks prior. With each delivered anecdote — dildo and sex toy references aplenty — Kohavi’s stories ramped up in vulgarity, keeping audience members laughing, and parents who had come for Family Weekend blushing. The sketch climaxed with a joke about a “weekly circlejerk.” The group was clearly parading how much obscenity they could get away with on stage, and it was, admittedly, thoroughly entertaining to start the show with.

5H’s later performances were similar in set-up. One character played the “odd one out” — played by Kohavi, for example, in this first sketch. There’s either the lone “straight-man” amidst a stage full of zany characters or a single oddball between voices of reason. This set-up creates a manicured environment full of comedic tension, conflict and interaction, highlighting the ensemble’s on-stage chemistry, producing comedy gold over and over — no mining required.

While diverging from this set-up could provide more variety to the sketch selection, 5H’s delivery and timing were exceptionally well-rehearsed and stuck their landings each time, ensuring that audience members did not get the impression of redundancy. 

To aid with sketch fluidity, scenes of a continuous bit involving a hockey player, played by Letourneau, were interspersed between longer segments of stage-presence and were endowed with some of the best jokes of the night. In one skit, as Letourneau walks to the penalty box, a hockey announcer asks “But did he have to say those things about the 19th amendment?” to which Letourneau yells, “My mom’s a woman!” 

Although the hockey sketches’ undeveloped overarching narrative may have come across as jarring to some viewers, their quick pace and solid punchlines more than compensated. Even when it’s a little unfocused, it’s clear the 5H crew takes humor seriously, and the result is seriously hilarious. The visual comedy of a shirtless wrestler pouncing on Letourneau in the middle of a darkened LC classroom alone, undoubtedly left a lasting impression. 

The set design was minimal, consisting primarily of tables and chairs, occasionally supplemented by a few small props and costume items. A single video skit was played halfway through the evening on the retractable video screen that most indoor classrooms come equipped with, taking advantage of the video medium to deliver a parody advertisement for the group. 

The video amplified the contrast between pre-taped sketches — how most contemporary comedy is consumed — and live performances. Social tension and delivery have a greater emphasis placed on them without the fancy cuts and edits that pre-recorded comedy relies on. There’s something especially natural about consuming comedy live that sheds the artifice of the hundreds of re-recordings that video comedy is able to shield itself behind.

“To do comedy is to put yourself in an incredibly vulnerable position,” said co-director of 5H Betty Kubovy-Weiss ’25. “We do this because we love it, and it’s so fucking scary. So when people laugh, it’s such a validation.”

What Betty mentioned is absolutely true — comedy is a mutually validating experience. Watching the 5H sketches felt like there was someone out there who also understood that absurd, iteratively raunchy humor you share with your closest friends in states of delirium and the state of “giggles” that takes you over in the late hours of the night. It’s a sort of heartening and encouraging experience. 

In a way, the jokes feel familiar. One could imagine the ideas behind many of the sketch premises coming naturally from conversations held around Yale’s campus — no small part due to their vulgarity. Any repetition in sketch structure could easily be justified by the idiom, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” 

Impressively, many of the new 5H members had little to no prior experience in comedy or the performing arts. Dora Molot ’27,  a 5H “Stallion” and prospective chemistry major, said about 5H, “This is my only performing arts related [extracurricular]. I’m actually starting to get more involved with more STEM things.”

All evening, distinguishing between new members and veterans was a challenge, a testament to the deliberate casting choices made behind the scenes. Dean Farella ’26, co-director of 5H, explained their collaborative creative process: “We all write together and independently. If someone has an idea, they’ll pitch it to the group and people might join in.” He explained that the process involves pitching ideas, casting roles and editing as a group. Before shows, group members submit sketches to the directors who narrow down the perming list. 

In short, the performance was a welcomed showcase of 5H’s “bread-and-butter.” Sketch ideas pitched by new members were treated the same as any others—recursively edited and formatted into a structure known to generate laughs. Audience members were delighted by the profanity and overjoyed by the opportunity to watch comedians risk being in front of an audience again. While we hope to see the new members experiment more further in their tenure, this first show celebrated the fundamentals of 5H sketch comedy in a way audiences will happily welcome more of.

Red Hot Poker

Zoe Larkin ’24, Director Emeritus of Red Hot Poker, described the RHP experience as a series of “iterative punch-ups with a group ethos and an eye towards game,” which is likely as succinct and accurate a description of watching RHP sketches as anyone will ever get. 

Red Hot Poker delivered “Hit Me Baby One More Show!” at 10 p.m. in room 201 of William L. Harkness Hall to a full house — yes, I know, wrong “poker,” but I couldn’t help myself!. Their sketches debuted their five newest members: Kianna Jean-Francois ’27, Devika Kothari ’27, Millie Liao ’27, Nicolas Maynulet ’27 and Victoria Mnatsakanyan ’27. In a world of long setups, these comedic fledglings are already masters of the punchline, never failing to make the audience laugh, despite a few missed opportunities for comic escalation. Their clever sketch premises and commitment to their performances remained remarkably consistent all night long.

Coincidentally, RHP began their show with a circular seminar, not unlike 5H, providing introductions to several members all at once. This first sketch featured the art of hamboning — the slapping of one’s own body rhythmically to produce music. While members of the seminar relay touching personal stories, Fred, a lost member of a hamboning troupe — played by Prentiss Patrick-Carter ’26 — responds not with quiet snaps of affirmation but with barrages of surprisingly impressive knee slaps. As the sketch progressed, the hamboning routines grew more intricate and slowly converted the seminar’s “non-hamboners” into devoted “hambonees.” When Fred exited the scene, three seminar members stood up as the lights dimmed and dramatic music swelled, leading to the humorous conclusion that Fred’s hamboning might just be a “gift from God.” This first sketch expertly handled comedic buildup, in a way that successive skits seemed to lose sight of. Nevertheless, RHP’s brilliantly creative sketch premises carried their weight tenfold.

RHP explored a college application panel more concerned with their school’s rave culture than academics, a feminism panel so enthused that they accidentally reinvented sweatshops and even Abraham Lincoln’s reaction to his daughter’s poor theater performance. 

Chesed Chap ’25, RHP’s Director, explained that the “voice” of RHP is in constant flux, evolving each year as old members graduate and new members join the ranks. New taps are encouraged to write, pitch and suggest edits to sketches, ensuring that everyone is involved in the creative process from the very beginning. This encouragement of new voices is a huge factor as to why RHP sketch ideas can feel so continuously fresh.

One of the evening’s standout sketches featured Princess Peach, played by Mnatsakanyan, suppressing her laughter in the Mushroom Kingdom war room while her Toad advisors relayed news in their iconic shrill croaks. The Toads’ discordant screams and hilarious hats, alongside Victoria’s royally pompous performance, were a joy to view. However, the sketch’s mishandling of escalation made its later half feel unfortunately redundant. In the sketch, the Toads tell Princess Peach increasingly horrible news about the war against Bowser. Peach, distracted by the Toads’ voices, struggles to remain serious. This premise is ridiculously clever, but its performance preemptively “jumps the shark” by having the Toads’ reveal news about death too early. Luckily, a slew of fantastic performances saved this sketch and the rest that suffered from the same mishandlings.

While some of the more involved sketches, such as the ninth-grader in a second-grade classroom, played by Chesed, overshadowed the more subdued ones like the bodybuilding and flight safety sketches, RHP, especially its newest members, shone most when they were compounding on each other’s humor in bombastic displays of over-the-top-ness. 

Noah Bradley ’25, a RHP member, explained that everyone was welcome to RHP and that their strength as a troupe comes from their inclusivity. “We get straight-up theater majors, we’ve got people that did improv in high school and we’ve also got pre-meds who were the funny ones in their friend groups who choose to join us on a whim,” he said. “That makes it easy to integrate new members because there isn’t this idea that everyone has to be perfect.”

The camaraderie among members of both 5H and RHP is palpable, both on and off stage. Their mutual respect and enjoyment performing together create a collaborative atmosphere that enriches the comedy scene at Yale. We promise that any Yalie won’t regret going to see either act perform at least once. They’re the comedy shows you didn’t know you needed, until you realize you can’t live without.