UT-Austin comedy orgs still try to deliver laughs despite pandemic woes

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Photo Credit: Melanie Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

Some say laughter is the best medicine, but delivering comic relief has proven to be difficult during a pandemic for student-led comedy organizations at UT.

With the help of Zoom, Gigglepants Improv has continued to put on live shows and make students laugh. While the improv comedy club performers are used to thinking on their feet, the transition from stage to screen has given new meaning to the term improvisation. 

“We lose the physicality in improv a little bit when (we’re) stuck in a screen,” said Madison Cooper, social media manager of Gigglepants Improv.

Normally, an improv show is where a group of performers make up a comedic scene on the spot, usually with suggestions from the audience. Studio art junior Cooper said there are some problems delivering improv in a virtual format. 

“What if my WiFi cuts out?” Cooper said. “We’ve had some technological problems, like, ‘Oh we can’t hear you,’ and (we try) to incorporate that into something that’s funny and comedic.” 

Without feedback from a live audience, students who are new to improv can feel uncomfortable performing over a screen. Juan Leyva, the vice captain at Gigglepants Improv, said this is why Gigglepants decided not to host auditions this semester. 

“We didn’t want to overwhelm people,” theatre studies senior Leyva said. “They’re on Zoom. There’s no direct feedback of laughter that they can gauge if they’re doing well or not.” 

 

Longhorn Latenight, a live comedy sketch show on Texas Student Television, would usually consist of multiple pre-rehearsed comedy scenes performed live in front of a studio audience, but the pandemic has forced the showrunners to reevaluate how to put on their show safely.

“Over the summer, the team and I were like, ‘We very much have to do things very differently,’ because you took out the live part of (Longhorn Latenight),” said Joey Karlik, executive producer of talent at Longhorn Latenight.

The University has implemented new regulations detailing how the TSTV studio can be used, including appointment only and limits on studio capacity.  Without a live audience, Longhorn Latenight has decided to pre-record their sketches and create a unique way to generate audience engagement.

“We do YouTube premiere,” radio-television-film junior Karlik said. “That way we can upload (the show) a day or two in advance, get a little bit of hype going, and then everyone can watch it at the same time when it premieres.” 

Leyva said the new experience has sharpened organization members’ comedy skills. 

“Because with Zoom, where if two people talk at the same time, you’re just gonna hear a bunch of jumbled mess,” Leyva said. “It’s really forced us to say a line and really listen to another. It’s really taught us to set up a joke to guarantee the success of our partner in a scene.” 

Cooper said attending an improv comedy show offers students an outlet to relieve stress.  

 “You can just sit and watch people be funny for you and give yourself time to debrief,” Cooper said. “Just being entertained and giving yourself a break from school work and all the stressful things (in your life).”