Conducting an interview with the cast members of 1UP Original Student Stage & Screen Productions was an entertaining experience. Over the course of answering questions, the group could not help but joke around, improvising together.
“Funny shit just comes up,” said Matt Huppert, a junior on the team and former Badger Herald employee. “We just bounce words off one another as we brainstorm ideas.”
Drawing inspiration from the style of shows like “Saturday Night Live,” 1UP is a sketch-comedy team. The cast members work with an organization called Manhole to write a variety of sketches, creating original characters, story lines and skits ranging from 45 seconds to five minutes. Following the writing phase, 1UP enacts the sketches on the stage or produces them for the screen.
“We use Google Docs, so anyone can add to it; we usually all have our laptops out, writing, editing, going line-by-line, figuring out how to do it better,” said Billy Garcia, another junior on the team. “Sketches are mixed between video and stage; writing for each is different. Just because some jokes onstage are better than those that are filmed, we don’t have a laugh track.”
Four years ago, a group of students on campus started 1UP as a place to create sketch comedy and perform self-written, independent stage and film productions. Using skits written in conjunction with Manhole, the group now performs shows throughout the year, including its next on-campus show, Dec. 7 in Music Hall.
The organization’s mission is to foster creativity, encouraging all cast members to contribute their individual interests in comedy. When forming its content, the group uses topics ranging from a variety of areas, from poking fun at political figures to re-enacting its own concept of “Toddlers and Tiaras.”
“When you have a funny idea, your whole goal with the sketch is to remember what made you laugh about that idea, and try to heighten and show that idea,” Huppert said.
Sophomore cast member Hari Jost has worked on improv before, but up until now her work with Manhole had never written sketch comedy specifically.
“It’s really great just to have the opportunity and to hear feedback on how you can improve yourself as a writer, and also as a performer,” Jost said. “I like having that dual role. You’re not just solely acting, you’re not just solely writing; you have the potential to do both.”
According to Huppert and Garcia, ideas come from anywhere and everywhere, specifically everyday situations. Both cast members insist on carrying small notebooks with them to jot down ideas at any moment that could have great potential.
“We are focusing on how to go from the idea stage in a production, to the actual development stage, and the production stage, so we try to engage with other students who have an idea, how are they going to produce it,” Huppert said.
After an idea is offered, the next step involves writing multiple drafts until a sketch is written that can be performed. Once a script is read, from there a cast member must find other members to fill the roles. With sketches that will be filmed, decisions in regard to lighting, setting and other areas must be made.
The group practices once a week and hopes to put together enough content to offer a show once every couple of months. In addition to the humor provided during the shows, 1UP strives to be the sole venue on campus to watch improv and comedy come together.
“We are all students that write our own sketches, perform our own sketches. We are a team that does all this, we don’t have any external forces,” Jost said.
For more information, the group suggests following its Facebook page, “Manhole Sketch Comedy Team,” for all the most up-to-date news. This includes announcements about auditions and YouTube Videos of the group’s most recent performances. 1UP also gladly welcomes people interested in helping film the team’s sketches.
For now, the group is busy preparing for the Dec. 7 performance. Garcia said he enjoys nothing more than a great audience during the performances to appreciate and enjoy the group’s hard work.
“I love working with an audience, hearing their reactions to the jokes,” he said. “I just love that.”