The Bureau ends semester on a good (and funny) note

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By Kelsey Sutton

The University of Maryland’s only multi-purpose comedy troupe performed its last — and best — show of the semester Dec. 7.

The Bureau, comprised of 14 undergraduate students known for performing stand-up, improv and sketch comedy wrote and performed 13 original sketches for over 130 people in the Atrium of the Stamp Student Union.

The show opened with a sketch satirizing sex education, followed by a video sketch written collaboratively by senior cast members.

Other sketches subverted gender stereotypes, exaggerated day-to-day experiences and bordered on absurdism.

“I really liked it,” said Jessica Wiley, a junior mechanical engineering major who attended the show. “It’s relatable without being too raunchy.”

The Bureau’s creative co-director Daniel Parisi was pleased with the audience response.

“We had a lot of sketches that we feared would be too outside the norm…but I feel like they went over really well,” he said.

Claire Lotz, creative co-director, was also pleased — and relieved.
“I was really anxious about the show, but…overall it went great,” she said.  “It feels really great when people laugh at your jokes, but its even better when they also laugh at the parts that you didn’t think would get a laugh.”

Collin Baker, a member for three semesters, said the group tried to link all the sketches together.

“I think it’s really cool when you take different sketches written by different people… and weave them together to create cohesion,” he said.

The sketches gathered comedic strength in the order the group performed them, Parisi said.

“In the last two weeks we worked harder on that sketch show than I’ve worked on anything else in my whole life,” Baker said.

Cast members ironed out a brief lighting snafu and cleared up some static coming through the sound system, which distracted the audience for about five minutes intermittently.

“We couldn’t practice the lighting at all before the show,” Parisi said.

But Wiley only vaguely remembered the flare-up.  What stood out more was the “intelligent humor” the group promoted, she said.

“I was really impressed with the sketches in the show for the girls,” Lotz said.  “We had a lot of really funny girl characters in some sketches, which we don’t always see.”

Member Rosie Cappetta wrote “Shewolves,” one of Wiley’s favorite sketches.  The sketch played on female stereotypes of hormonal oversensitivity, finally subverting them when the characters are revealed to be werewolves and not overemotional women.

“I loved that one!” said Allison Gibson, a senior economics major who attended.  “It was very cleverly written.”

But Lotz said her mother “didn’t get it.”

In the months leading up to the show, Bureau members wrote over 30 sketches, voting on the best 13 to perform on Saturday night.   Cast members read through original sketches and voted on their favorites.

“It was a huge semester for sketch writing,” Lotz said.  “The more sketches people write and present to the group, the bigger a selection we have to choose from.”

Then, members move into an intensive month-long period of practicing up to twenty hours a week memorizing scripts, practicing stage movement and perfecting their comedic timing, Parisi said.

Come January, the busy schedule will start all over again, said Parisi.

He and Baker plan to launch a Bureau comedy podcast, which will take the commitment of all Bureau members.

“We’ll be the first comedy group on campus with one,” Baker said.

Parisi and Baker are spearheading the weekly hour-long podcast, which will combine improv and sketch comedy forms.

The spring semester is Lotz’s last, and she will “be writing as many sketches as I can,” she said.

“As a personal goal, I’m going to write a lot of sketches with funny girls in them,” she said.

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