It is no surprise that McGill, a school of academia and research, is reputable for its political groups, newspapers, and environmental activism. Yet, comedy often fades into the background almost unnoticed. How ironic is it that in Montreal, a city that’s home to the Just for Laughs headquarters and festival, the comedy scene is underrepresented at McGill?
Despite this fact, 15 talented McGill students brought the third annual Bring Your Own Juice (BYOJ) production to life at the Players’ Theatre this past Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The live sketch comedy, the sole group of its kind on campus, is entirely original and is written collectively by all the actors performing in the show.
The sketch follows a nonlinear plot jumping from theme to theme, while juxtaposing comedic elements that are completely unrelated. Apart from a single skit that is repeated, the audience is exposed to a range of sketches, musical numbers, and even amusing dances. It is this SNL-inspired cohesive chaos that keeps the packed theatre laughing and riveted for the entire two hours.
“[There are] a lot of people from a lot of different comedic backgrounds: Improv, stand up, writing, or proper theatre,” said Andrej Gomizelj, stage manager. “Because everything is written by a different person, you have two things coming next to each other that have no reason to be next to each other in any way—they shouldn’t be, but it works.”
Swearing, sexual content, and societal stereotypes are prevalent throughout the sketch; however, for the most part, the jokes remain light and politically correct. In particular, an entire sketch is devoted to a Canadian spin, in which the actors attack every Canadian stereotype imaginable from an apologetic love of hockey to Canadian pride in free health care, finally concluding with a humorous chorus of “O’Canada.”
“It may not be your sense of humour, but you begin to appreciate it,” remarks director Dan Moczula. “It broadens your perspective on what is humor, what is funny, and what belongs on stage.”
Despite the fact that the entire show is written, refined, produced, and performed in a month’s time, chemistry between the cast manifests itself through almost every joke. Even during rehearsal, tension between the cast is minimal and dissipates quickly.
“Conflicts are momentary, taking a step back it’s always about the bigger picture,” commented Courtney Kassel, marketing director. “I don’t think we’ve ever had any creative conflicts, which is really interesting because we have such a diverse style. We’ve always just ended up with something without it being a source of tension.”
This year, BYOJ underwent a drastic transition from an autocracy to democracy, which revolutionized its creative production process. Now any member of the McGill community, whether undergraduate, graduate, or professor—theoretically—can submit a script. Individuals from last year’s production review the entries and then blindly vote on which scripts should be selected. The group is also gaining momentum in numbers, expanding from eight members last year to the current 15, as well as in performance time, as this is the first year the production will run for three shows instead of one.
This holistic, bottom-up approach unites a group all working towards the same goal: Putting on a great show that will draw attention to comedy at McGill.
“We always call it our ‘sketch baby,’ because it’s something we hold near and dear to us and also stay up way too late taking care of, devoting ridiculous amounts of effort and time towards,” Kassel explained.
As McGill does not officially recognize the BYOJ group as an organization, it faces several challenges. They are heavily reliant on other associations for funding and room reserving. The group is currently in the process of applying for SSMU club status, but this is a timely process, Moczula claimed.
“We want to make comedy a reputable thing at McGill,” he said. “What we want to be is an independent place for intelligent, critically-minded people [who] are able to make fart jokes, and can book our own rooms.”