By Katie Takacs
Walking through the First Look Fair, any student can see there are tons of options when it comes to joining groups at the University of Maryland, but four groups in particular stand out as the funniest: Erasable Inc., Sketchup, The Bureau, and Off the Wall.
These four groups are the premiere comedy groups on campus, providing their humor and hilarity to the university’s students.
The first of the four that was founded on campus was Erasable Inc., which was created in 1986 with the help of Yale’s improv group Purple Crayon. “Inc.” for short, it is the only all-improv group on campus, offering a variety of performance genres.
“We don’t typically consider ourselves a comedy group,” member Sam Mauceri said. “We are a performance group first and foremost, and sometimes comedy comes out of what we do.”
During its performances, which occur every Friday from 1-2 p.m. on the steps of McKeldin Library, Inc. takes suggestions from the audience and uses them as inspiration for its scenes. Depending on the two people in a scene, a specific type of humor develops.
The members’ performances do not generally target a specific audience, as some are described as “dark and raunchy,” while others lean toward “the absurd or the whimsical,” Mauceri, a senior theatre and Arabic major, said.
Sketchup members, on the other hand, define their comedy as “intelligent and poignant.” For some time Sketchup was known as the “sex” group of the four because of its specifically raunchy type of humor, but they have since moved passed that, junior studio art major and Sketchuo member Reed Bjorntvedtsaid.
Bjorntvedt said that because many of its members want to pursue comedy out of college, Sketchup, which was founded in 1996, stands out as the professional comedy group on campus.
“This isn’t just another club to be a part of,” Bjorntvedt said. “This, in some ways, is our academics itself.”
Sketchup meets three times a week, where it constantly work on re-writing and re-conceptualizing sketches–its specialized form of comedy. Because of the nature of its rehearsal process, it performs two big shows a year on campus. It also performs a joint show with Inc. every year, where Sketchup performs improv and Inc. performs sketches.
Off the Wall offers a different type of comedy to students, which is the only group on campus that features stand-up comedy.
“The beauty of stand-up is that you can literally do whatever you want with it,” senior history major and president Isaac Hirsch said. “You can be dirty, you can be clean, you can tell bizarre one liners about non-stick pans–whatever you want to do in stand-up, Off the Wall will let you do it.”
Founded in 2008 by current Los Angeles comedian Justin Cousson, the group was created to put on free stand-up comedy shows for students, while also giving them a chance to try stand-up comedythrough open-mic nights, Hirsch said.
Off the Wall performs showcases and holds open mic nights about twice a month, although members also perform individually in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.
The Bureau was founded in 1998because none of the other groups offered students the opportunity to perform all three types of comedy, sophomore Spanish, French and secondary education major Rosie Cappetta said.
The Bureau performs several times throughout the semester, including two improv shows, one sketch show and festivals at other colleges. Its shows target all types of humor, but many times its material can be darker than other groups on campus.
One of the group’s favorite games to play is “Four Ways to Die,” but they also do a mixture of puns, satire and parody, in hopes they will appeal to everyone, Cappetta said.
Regardless of the type of comedy they are performing, members of all the groups said their favorite part of being involved with a comedy group on campus is the opportunity to perform, especially with other members.
“I love hanging out with like-minded people and creating amazing comedy with them,” Bjorntvedt said. “Performing your own sketches to a receptive audience gives you a high like no other.”