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Comedy Corner is a weekly student-run comedy troupe at the University of Arizona in Tucson with roots going back to 1979. The core group consists of about 10-14 regular writers and performers. Comedy Corner is the nation's oldest college sketch and improv comedy group. The group also produces comedy shorts frequently and screens them at their live shows, as well as local film festivals. Comedy Corner is the first documented college sketch comedy troupe to incorporate improvisation into its weekly shows, a practice that has become more common in recent years.
Comedy Corner performs Wednesdays at 9:30pm in the Cellar Bistro on the bottom floor of the Student Union.
In the fall of 1979 at the University of Arizona, a public management freshman named Adam P. Goldstein created “Closet Comics”, a weekly comedy show premiering every Friday at noon in The Cellar restaurant. Adam was quickly joined by two co-founders, Jim Craig, an Engineering junior with a minor in Drama, and Phil Klinkon, an Architecture junior. When referenced in the Daily Wildcat, the show was called “The Comedy Corner” and later became known as Comedy Corner. The show primarily consisted of stand-up comics, but also featured acts such as punk banjo, juggling, and some sketch work. Comedy Corner was essentially a weekly talent show. Acts would audition on Wednesdays, be critiqued, and then perform on Fridays. Sometimes if the act needed work, it was scrapped for the next week's show. At the time, Comedy Corner had a very low attendance, but it picked up in its first semester.
The first comedy duo to perform was called the Jim and Phil Show. They performed sketches, including one act that started with two Entemology professors from Cambridge, who slowly morph into their favorite insects, ready to mate. Jim and Phil eventually moved to LA to pursue professional comedy careers.
Timothy Gassen and Chad White were also founding Comedy Club members. They met at the club's first organizational meeting, and then formed "The Grubby Theatre Company." Consisting of filmmaker Gassen, musician White and screenwriter Marlowe Weisman (and other rotating members including Mark Hertzog), The Grubby Theatre Company performed songs, roasts and original sketches. The group released a book collection of their material in 1981, and staged a 20th anniversary reunion as one of the headlining acts for the 1999 Comedy Corner "S.I.C.K." festival shortly before the original Student Union and Cellar was demolished.
This era of Comedy Corner also saw the comedy of Bob Rubin, now a national stand-up comedian. Bob performed over-the-top antics, including bringing a motorcycle into The Cellar one week to allegedly attempt to jump the audience Evil Knievel-style.
By the spring semester of 1982, Comedy Corner became a popular attraction on campus. It was during this period that Garry Shandling hosted a show. To increase its visibility, Comedy Corner members performed a promotional show on a local radio station. Later, the radio show was canceled because someone made a joke involving rape on air.
When founder Goldstein left, he summed up his Comedy Corner experience with this perplexing advice: “Don’t serve the dessert before the chili.”
In 1983, Comedy Corner nearly fell apart. As only two students, Bill Berry and Mike Sterner, had not graduated, the show became a series of two-man sketches with the added help of one new member, Terry Owen. After Berry left, Sterner and Owen were so desperate to fill time, they had an open mic in the middle of the show. Recognizing the problem, Sterner ran a newspaper ad soliciting “regulars”. Six people showed up, including Bill Bernat and Paul Smitherman, who said they would only perform if they could wear lab coats.
Comedy Corner was then reconstituted into a stand-up and sketch comedy format revolving around a weekly theme, such as "Safety Week", "Vaudeville is Dead Week," and "Bill Berry's - A Salute to Cafeterias." Sketches were written over the weekends, then rehearsed on Mondays. On Wednesdays, they were polished and assigned props and costumes. On Fridays, the show was performed in front of a live audience.
Through the next 30 years, Comedy Corner transformed into a sketch and improv troupe. They currently perform a weekly show on Wednesday nights at 9:30pm in The Cellar Bistro (which was rebuilt under the same name in the new Student Union). Shows consist of a half-hour of original sketch comedy followed by a half-hour of improv.
From its inception, Comedy Corner has had financial operational support (for props and costumes) by the University Activities Board. In 1995, Comedy Corner also received its first and last sponsorship of $1500 from a major corporation, Miller Light. The sponsorship only lasted a year. After the breakup, Comedy Corner went on to marry a doctor living in Manhattan, who was easily convinced to move to the suburbs of long Island and start a family. Miller Lite went back to dating their High-school sweetheart (Who was fresh out of Joliet Jail) in Wheaton, Illinois.
Comedy Corner performs on Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. in the Cellar, located at the bottom level of the University of Arizona's Student Union building. Shows run approximately one hour long, and consist of sketches, short and medium-form improv, and music and video presentations created by writers and cast members.
Rehearsal processes vary from week-to-week depending on the nature of the week's show.
Typically, the group's writers and performers meet Friday afternoon for a writer's meeting, where they discuss ideas and topics for sketches. More promising or developed ideas are then hashed out into first drafts of sketches, which are then run at the week's first rehearsal on Monday evening. The group then decides collectively to keep the sketch as-is, return it to the original writer or another group member to be revised for future weeks, or scrap the sketch altogether. The group then meets for their second rehearsal on Wednesday evening, where the troupe run sketches that will be performed in that night's show. At the end of this rehearsal, the troupe goes down the The Cellar to prep costumes and prop before opening the curtains at 9:30. The investment of any given individual in the troupe can range from simply being asked to run lights for the show, to memorizing lines for 1-8 sketches, or even being held responsible for the means of production for the given weeks show which can include but not limited to more than 2 pints of fake blood, a 1 to scale Falkor, or just the standard request for the performers morals and standards to be checked at the door.
The performing cast also practices improv during rehearsals. Performers often play games and run scenes, also participating in workshop-oriented exercises. These exercises are not intended as performance pieces. Rather, they encourage the development of skill sets that can be utilized during improv games and scenes. A weekly gathering dubbed Saturday Morning Improv (though it mostly occurs in the afternoon due to apathy and hangovers) was started in 2008, and it invites anyone and everyone from the campus and the greater Tucson community to join members of Comedy Corner in a no-judgment all-improv workshop where all are capable of impressing upon their peers that they may have only mastered a 4th grade reading level.
Currently, the cast, led by the director, creates two themed shows per year. "The Halloween Show" runs the Friday before Halloween. This show traditionally features a collection of sketches arranged to form a linear storyline. The Halloween Show often features excruciating amounts of fake blood, and it is tradition for all of the cast members to "die" in the show's storyline. Most die in the final moments of the final scene, and the cast members hold a "dead-off" to see who can remain dead on stage the longest while audience members wonder if the show is over or not.
Comedy Corner also creates an annual "Blasphemy Week", which takes place the Friday before Easter. Sketches revolve around the religions of the world, including but not limited to Christianity, Judaism, Scientology, Buddhism, etc.
Other theme shows have included "Trading Places Week" wherein each cast member takes on the persona of a different cast member and "The Show from Over There", which took place on the balcony of the cellar in the old Student Union while the audience sat on stage. Some themed shows also occur spontaneously at the discretion of the cast and director.
The last weekly show of each semester is a designated "Best Of" show, wherein the cast and writers choose their favorite sketches of the semester and showcase them in an encore presentation. In the past, "Best Of" shows have run longer than traditional weekly shows, ranging from ninety minutes to two hours. In recent years, the cast has scheduled their "Best Of" shows within their normal one hour timeslot.
Comedy Corner holds open auditions at the beginning of Fall and Spring semesters. The audition process starts with improv. Those who audition will play several games and run improv scenes, either with other auditionees or with current cast members. The next portion of auditions involves a sketch cold-read. Those who make it past any cuts move on to an interview, where they will answer questions so the cast gets to know the auditionee's personality. They are evaluated by the members of the group present in the audition and a majority vote decides if the prospective member becomes a performer.
Comedy Corner is part of the University Activities Board, which is responsible for scheduling and funding all events at the University of Arizona. Each year Comedy Corner's membership votes on leadership positions for the following school year. The group traditionally designates one member as a producer and another member as a director.
The producer, who must be approved by the University Activities Board prior to his or her enactment as Comedy Corner's official producer, acts as a delegate to the University Activities Board. The producer handles all budgeting, finance, and organizational responsibilities. It is also the producer's responsibility, along with the director, to organize some of the aspects of the annual S.I.C.K. Festival, which takes place in the Spring semester. The producer also has a desk in the UAB office. At the desk, posters and some sketches are made up by members in the group.
Comedy Corner's director is responsible for the "artistic" element of the group's weekly shows. This involves leading discussions, writer's meetings, and rehearsals, creating a weekly show order, and introducing the weekly shows, or making arrangements for some sort of introduction, if one is necessary. It is also the duty of the director to keep the group together, by making sure everyone is in good spirits when performing and during rehearsals. The director must bring to the troupe new ideas for sketches, and new improv games. Through this the director has to teach the troupe new improv skills, and how to perform better overall on stage. Both the director and the producer spends about 20 hours a week dedicated to the group.
The S.I.C.K. Comedy Festival
The festival began in 1992 and is typically a showcase for Arizona college comedy groups, though occasionally has brought in professional talent to perform, such as comedians David Cross in 2001, Lewis Black in 2003, Demetri Martin in 2005, and The Upright Citizens Brigade in 2006. The headline act for 2007 was Comedy Corner itself, and in 2008 it was The Second City.
Comedy Corner treats the festival as a showcase for more elaborate new material, rather than a "best-of" event. Traditionally, Comedy Corner's S.I.C.K. performances are more extravagant and elaborate, both technically and comedically, than their weekly shows, and tend to develop a show-length story arc that ties sketches and scenes together.
Comedy Corner was the only comedy troupe at the University of Arizona until October 1997, when an improv troupe called The Charles Darwin Experience, was founded by a Comedy Corner writing candidate. The Charles Darwin Experience is now a big part of the UA comedy scene, performing a short form comedy show. The premiere of The Charles Darwin Experience was followed by a surge in new comedy groups, including Ambidextrous Armada in 1999 (defunct), Mechanically Separated Chicken in 2001 (defunct), New Kevin (defunct), and in 2002, The Street-Prov Theatre Collective (defunct), which was also founded by former Comedy Corner members in 2005. Despite the mix of teams that have started and failed at UA, Comedy Corner and The Charles Darwin Experience have fought off the pack and have devoted weekly audiences to their free performances on campus.
Farce Side Comedy Hour (active), a sketch comedy troupe at Arizona State University, was founded by Comedy Corner member Mike Sterner, who transferred schools. "Farce Side" was initially also called "Comedy Corner."
Current troupe members
Cast For The 2012-2013 Season:
- Director: Mikey Dean Agius
- Producer: Andrew Hatch
- Ray Thomas
- Nathan Turner
- Symeon Platts
- Christian Puentes
- Lena Olson
- Claude Renner
- DougAndrew Conlogue
- Shannon Clowes
- Amanda Hurley
- Ben Jaramillo
- Emmet Andrews
- Haley Montanez
- Drew Antzis - Director - Co-directed 'The Landlord' starring Will Ferrell at Funnyordie.com
- Alex Baze - Emmy-nominated writer for "Saturday Night Live"
- Michael Levinsky - actor/teacher...now lives in Toronto Canada
- Nicole Randall Johnson - Actress - "Mad TV", "Curb Your Enthusiasm", "Reno 911!"
- Peter Murrietta - Writer/Producer/Creator - "Greetings From Tucson", "Wizards of Waverly Place", "Jesse"
- Timothy A. Bennett - Actor/Writer/Filmmaker/Musician - Best known as Hawk the brain-damaged roadie in the rock band Van Stone
- Graham Elwood - Actor/Writer/Producer/Director - "Cram", "Strip Poker"
- Paul Goebel - Actor - "Beat the Geeks", "Curb Your Enthusiasm", "My Big Fat Independent Movie"
- Derek Iversen - Writer - "SpongeBob SquarePants"
- Nat Cassidy - Actor/Writer/Musician - Author of The Reckoning of Kit & Little Boots and named "a young theatre artist to watch" in New York City
- Robert Carillo Cohen - Producer of HBO Emmy-nominated documentary "Hacking Democracy"
- Jim Craig - Senior Executive Business Advisor and Public Speaker
- Andy Creighton - Musician - Fronts The World Record and plays in Aden, Ashtray Boy, Let's Go Sailing and Annie Hayden.
- Mick Dalrymple - Eco-Builder - Partner in the company a.k.a. Green
- Danielle Egnew - Musician/Actress/Psychic/Activist - Director / Host, feature film Montgomery House: The Perfect Haunting - Cast Member, Missing Peace TV Series"
- Dayvid Figler - Public Radio Commentator/Tru TV Commentator - "All Things Considered", "Nevada Public Radio"
- Ron Friedman - Writer - "Open Season", "Chicken Little", "Brother Bear" - Not an official alum, but produced a Comedy Corner documentary in 1992
- Timothy Gassen - Director/Writer/Musician
- Greg Kaczynski - Co-Founder/Director/Actor/Writer for Los Angeles sketch comedy group Dynamite Kablammo
- Phil Klinkon - Architect - Lead designer for mass-transit rail systems
- Greg Loumeau - Author/Musician/Artist - Comic strip "Fish Shtick", children's books "The Endangered Alphabet," "The Magic Tree" and music project/children's book "Eyes of the Bicycle Horse"
- Andy Mosier - Artist/Writer - Comic strip "K-Rat"
- Arnie Niekamp - Improv Olympic Writer/Actor - Wrote for the video game "You Don't Know Jack" and current cast member of Whirled News Tonight
- Terry Owen - Musician best known as cult songwriter Fish Karma - Currently on Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles record label
- Marlowe Weisman - Animation Writer - "My Gym Partner's A Monkey"
- Micah Ian Wright - Writer - Comic books, video games and animated series, including "The Angry Beavers" - Wrote a series of controversial anti-war propaganda posters "You Back The Attack, We'll Bomb Who We Want"
- Steve Yager - Actor/Director/Producer
- Comedy Corner site at Arizona.edu
- Comedy Corner, A 10 ½ Reunion, UAB
- Drew Antzis' Blog
- Alex Baze at the Internet Movie Database
- Nicole Randall Johnson at the Internet Movie Database
- Peter Murrietta at the Internet Movie Database
- Timothy A. Bennett at the Internet Movie Database
- Graham Elwood at the Internet Movie Database
- Paul Goebel at the Internet Movie Database
- Robert Carillo Cohen at the Internet Movie Database
- AKA Green Web Site
- Danielle Egnew's web site
- Ron J. Friedman at the Internet Movie Database
- Dreamco Web Site
- Marlowe Weisman at the Internet Movie Database
- Micah Wright at the Internet Movie Database