2016 marks the fourth year of the original sketch comedy troupe Bring Your Own Juice (BYOJ)’s of bringing unabashed silliness to a relatively stodgy campus atmosphere. The group, consisting of 10 student members, delivered a preview of their upcoming show at Players’ Theatre that was an absurd, surreal, and entertaining representation of its constituent members’ talents.
From the moment the show opened with a number about the growing sexual tension between two news anchors covering an annual “Grandparent’s Day Parade,” it became clear that BYOJ is serious about not taking itself seriously. At McGill, the majority of theatrical productions are highly thought out affairs, aiming to be streamlined and professional, putting months of planning and preparation into an adaptation of a known play.
The beauty of sketch comedy is that it is a completely different species of theatre. It doesn’t aim to transport you to some foreign realm with high production value or engross you in its calculated plot. Being funny is its first order of business—everything else works at the service of this main goal. This isn’t to say that there is less thought or work involved in a BYOJ production compared to something out of McGill’s drama department. As member Abbey Hipkin emphasizes, “the group both writes and develops its entire show in about a month, with rehearsals every day.” With only a small time frame to come up with an entire production, BYOJ’s sketches have a certain charming, imperfect quality about them that many long for in an academic environment that seeks perfection.
McGill is actually pretty late to join the sketch bandwagon, according to members Courtney Kassel and D.J. Mausner.
“I’m from the US,” Kassel said. “Most universities have a sketch comedy group that’s pretty well known.”
Sketch comedy is actually a big deal outside McGill, and it is very understandable why—it offers a judgment-free, creative environment where negativity is left at the door and weirdness is embraced. And this is certainly clear from an audience member’s standpoint when watching the sketches in action. Plot points range from cleverly satirical to completely surreal, and the actors’ complete lack of inhibition makes for a comfortable and loose atmosphere. Every segment is completely unlike anything one has watched before; and this constant feeling of having no idea what to expect is part of what makes watching BYOJ such a great experience. The group succeeds in not only being hilarious, but also innovative, relevant and clever.
Mausner emphasized that being members of the student demographic is a huge part of its success.
“We’re very connected and we know what’s funny or interesting to write about first,” Mausner said, mentioning the group’s active involvement in student life and in Montreal’s comedy scene.
The sketches themselves didn’t follow a discernable formula or theme, but nonetheless connected with the audience over very important cultural references, like #freethenipple for one. But perhaps one of the most endearing things about BYOJ is a very tight-knit group.
“After spending every day together, you become really close,” Hipkin said.
This is clearly conveyed in the performance, where the actors appear to be playing rather than working together. They make a very cohesive unit and their energy is infectious. The sketches are approachable and make you feel like you’re in on every joke.
If the press preview was any indication, the show that will mark the full culmination of BYOJ’s efforts in the past month promises to be a good time. Laughter really is the best medicine, and likely a perfect cap off to the dreary midterm season. Go with one or five friends that know how to take a joke, and you won’t be disappointed.
Bring Your Own Juice will be performing March 10 to 12 in Players’ Theatre at 8 p.m.. Tickets are $6.