By Elizabeth Zakaim
A frustrated scream echoed throughout Traditions –– a scream belonging to one of the members of a student comedy group, Kiss on the Lips. They were in the middle of a sketch about a game show contestant with 30 seconds to call a friend for some help with an answer that could win him a million dollars.
But the contestant made the fatal mistake of calling his mother, who apparently hadn’t spoken to her son in a while.
“Mom, no mom, listen,” the contestant cried as he tried to ask for her help with the question. His mother, a prerecorded voice coming from the speakers offstage, relentlessly interrupted her son with small talk and gossip, despite her son’s attempts to speak.
“You never call!” she said, stifling her son’s protests from the other end of the line.
Unfortunately, the contestant’s 30 seconds were up. He did not win the million dollar prize.
On the night of Friday, April 14, different comedy groups showed off their talent and wit at CUB Alt’s Student Comedy Night in Traditions. At least once a semester, CUB Alt likes to shift the focus of their shows away from music and dip their toes into the world of comedy, according to Dana Gorab, CUB Alt co-chair and a communication studies major.
Different performers treated the audience to a variety of performances. The audience enjoyed improv, comedy raps, stand up and other eccentric bits.
Comprising senior marketing major Garrett Verdone, Alex Guaglianone (’15) and Jonathan Van Halem (’16), Kiss on the Lips filled the stage with various bits, including “Roll Call,” where the group acted as counselors taking attendance for their bunk in camp. An innocent rhythmic head count of the imaginary Bunk Six turned into a deep confession about the inner sinister secrets of the camp.
The counselors shouted “Roll call” as they clapped their hands in time to the beat. They then divulged to the campers that their camp is the grounds of an unsolved murder, that they’re most likely under government surveillance and that “oh, by the way” archery is at 3 p.m.
The group transformed from camp counselors into bar mitzvah partiers dancing to “The Cupid Shuffle.” The song blasted from the speakers, and they danced happily until the song got stuck and started mindlessly repeating “to the right, to the right.”
The poor dancers robotically followed the song’s demands, only growing more frantic as each step brought them closer to the wall they soon smashed into uncontrollably. The audience chuckled when the dancers begged for someone to stop the music as they teetered, as if on the edge of a ship, near the side of the stage trying fruitlessly to stop dancing to a dance song gone horribly wrong.
Over the years, the group has since developed a knack for sensing what makes people laugh.
“The formula for silly: keep it short, fun and don’t let them get bored,” they said.
Their sketches are inspired by “middle school humor” and its endless slew of embarrassing moments. The group also follows other “underground” sketch groups from New York, like Murder Fist and Derrick Comedy, which they draw a lot of inspiration from for their own work.
“We steal sketches from old episodes of ‘SNL,’” Van Halem said about their diverse cultivation of material. Verdone and Guaglianone laughed. The group writes their own scripts individually, and then meets together to consolidate their work into one big sketch.
The group started in their friend’s basement in Ewing, N.J., while they were all students at the College, according to Verdone. After they graduated, when both Guaglianone and Van Halem moved to New York City, their act moved with them.
They started performing in venues in Brooklyn and doing monthly shows at the People’s Improv Theater in the city. They suit their performances to fit each venue. Grimy bits that made their basement friends laugh wouldn’t necessarily do as well in a dimly lit bar in downtown Manhattan.
The group is excited to be showcasing other facets of their humor at the College again soon –– they will be opening for B.J. Novak’s comedy show at the College later this month.
Up next was rap group Gang King who entertained the audience with its song “I’m the Man.” Two members of the group, senior marketing major Erik Hess and Matthew Fishman who doesn’t attend the College, performed the rap, which consisted of one trying to remind the other why they’re each “the man.”
Their voices faltered over the beat as they slowly ran out of reasons for why they’ve bestowed each other with that title, but nothing stopped them from trying. “I’m sorry dude I had a list in my head,” Hess said. “I tried.”
Its was the group’s first time performing at the College, but they’ve done many other performances with the rest of their members in other venues, including opening for Kiss on the Lips at a comedy club in Manhattan.
Hess and Fishman knew each other from high school where they sang in choir together.
“We used to hang out after school,” Fishman said. “He was really obnoxious. I hated him.”
They eventually grew on each other and started “making beats and funny songs,” Fishman said.
They entered a comedy video for Campus MovieFest in 2014 and found their niche in the world of humor.
“Anything goes,” Hess said of their creative process and ideas for new material. “If an idea is stupid, a lot of times it’s good because it’s funny.”
Both groups loved the crowd at the College and hope to be back soon in the future.
“TCNJ was always our rock,” Guaglianone said.
Most of their fans are students and alumni from the College, most of whom still come to their shows in the city.
The members of Kiss on the Lips, who met while a part of the College Union Board back in 2014, were ecstatic about coming to perform back where they first found their love for group comedy.
“We’re really happy we came out of TCNJ… and we’re really happy we got invited to perform,” Guaglianone said.