Etch-A-Sketch Comedy to ‘Save the Universe’ in show series

Alec Schwartzman, Print Arcade Editor

With finals breathing down students’ necks, laughs can be hard to come by. That won’t be the case this weekend when Tulane’s own Etch-A-Sketch Comedy troupe performs a series of six shows.

The comedy series, titled “Etch-A-Sketch Comedy Saves the Universe!” starts 8 p.m. Thursday at Lab Theater in McWilliams Hall. It continues Friday at 8 and 10:30 p.m., Saturday at 8 and 10:30 p.m., and Sunday at 8 p.m.

Initially established using the name ImprovE during the 2011 school year, the group was little more than a joke among friends, President Doug Kmiotek said.

“We were pretty much a group of friends who met every once in a while when we felt like it and put on a show at the end of the semester that was all inside jokes,” Kmiotek said. “We would write the show about a week before we put it up. It led to a lot of all-nighters and stress, but it was a lot of fun and people really liked it. We had good audience turnouts, so we started to become more legitimate.”

The following year, the group decided to switch to its current name and opened participation last year to people outside of the tight inner circle of theater majors. With the maturation of the members involved, Etch-A-Sketch has grown to strive for bigger and better sketches.

“We explored sketches involving bigger characters and funny situations and they became less about the one joke hitting you over the head to the point where you aren’t even laughing anymore,” Kmiotek. “Now our sketches are, I’d say, smarter in a way.”

The shows will feature 16 top sketches produced over a semester’s worth of production, which totaled close to 70 sketches.

“It really is … an all hands on deck sort of thing,” Kmiotek said. “There is no one person who is doing more of the writing or the acting. This semester we had 14 group members, and all really contributed to the writing process.”

Stage Manager Thalia Skaleris said the writing process featured writing, editing and repeating. Oftentimes, members would bring in funny videos and the rest of the cast would analyze what was funny, what was not and why.

“We tend to have rehearsals where we just throw out ideas,” Skaleris said.

Writing as a team is an integral part of the way Etch-A-Sketch functions. Difference of opinion leads to diverse and often funny results.

“Writing collaboratively is good because people have very different senses of humor and styles of writing,” Skaleris said. “There’s always someone who’s like ‘Let’s have a dragon’ … and there’s always someone who takes it way too far and makes us cringe. When put together, it makes for a funny sketch.”

Despite being a comedy group, practice is not always all fun and games. Most members dedicate anywhere between six to eight hours each week to the group.

“It’s hard not to have fun when you’re working on making funny content,” Skaleris said.

Kmiotek is especially proud of the progress the troupe has made since he joined the first semester of his freshman year.

“We sell out almost all of our shows,” Kmiotek said. “When I was a freshman most of our shows were half-full at best, and now we’re having to turn people away. It’s pretty cool to see the progression of the audience size.”

Kmiotek can still recall the magic he felt the first time he graced the stage, and cannot wait for the new members to capture that lightning in a bottle.

“When we practice, I think they’ve been getting the feeling of being on stage in their bodies,” Kmiotek said. “Putting it in front of an audience, having people laugh, and having the electricity of the back and forth between the audience — people always say you never forget your first time on stage. I am excited for the new people to experience that.”

The performances will be free, but an online reservation is required.