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arts

Funny 501 showed off IU's comedic talent April 7-8

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Several of IU’s student comedy groups came together April 7-8 in Ballantine Hall to present Funny 501 — an annual two-day festival that highlights the student comedy scene with groups specializing in stand-up, sketch and improv comedy. 

This year’s lineup included Ladies’ Night Comedy, Midnight Snack, Backdoor Comedy, The University tWits, Boy in the Bubble and Full Frontal Comedy. Members of each group met in the preceding months to plan the event, including designing posters and handbills to spread the word. 

“It’s a very unique time of the year where all the comedy groups work together,” said senior Jack Bishop, who performed with the tWits and helped to organize the festival. “Otherwise, throughout the year the groups are just doing individual shows, so it’s nice to plan things out together.” 

Friday night began with the stand-up talent of Ladies’ Night Comedy, an all-female comedy group which aims to highlight underrepresented voices in comedy. Four of their members performed Friday, warming up the crowd with concise sets. 

Following them was Midnight Snack, the smallest group on display at this festival with just four performing members, as well as the newest, having been recently reformed after a hiatus. They performed various improv games. 

Related: [Funny 501 student-run comedy festival to take place April 7-8]

Despite their size and relative inexperience, the four members seemed confident on stage and kept the audience laughing throughout. Any hiccups in their performance were quickly brushed off, rolling with the punches to keep their feet under them. 

Next up was Backdoor Comedy presenting their sketches. Conceptually, Backdoor’s sketches were exceptionally unique. Each time the lights came back up, they illuminated something completely unexpected, such as a sleep paralysis vision based on Michael Jackson. 

The final organized group to perform on Friday was The University tWits. One of the most well-known sketch groups on campus, the tWits are distinguished by their quick pacing and elaborate video sketches. 

They decided to forgo a video sketch this time, but they kept things moving along, with creative music mashups bridging the gaps between skits. Repeat tWits attendees were rewarded with callbacks to previous shows, and some of the funniest sketches later in the show made references to those performed earlier. 

Another four Ladies’ Night members opened the show Saturday. Although the energy was generally lower on Saturday, these quick stand-up sets — known as a “tight five” in the industry — worked well to get the audience in a laughing mood.  

Related: [IU Theatre to present ‘Something Rotten!’ April 14]

Following them was Boy in the Bubble, IU’s longest-running sketch comedy group. Their skits had a somewhat improvised feeling, as performers weren’t afraid to break character at times. This can sometimes take the wind out of the comedic sails, but it seemed as though the members were trying as hard to make each other laugh as they were the audience, and it worked to their benefit. 

Senior Joey Cerone, a member of Boy in the Bubble, said this year's festival felt much more like a collaborative effort for the comedy community. 

“This year was different because it felt like we all came together to do this rather than a couple of people taking charge,” he said. “Every single person in the comedy community jumped out and was so willing to help.” 

The final performance was Full Frontal Comedy. On the other side of the coin, they are the longest-running improv troupe at IU. They played several games, calling upon the audience to supply them with beginning material. It can be quite difficult to retain an entertaining pace in improv, but the chemistry between Full Frontal’s members meant that the jokes kept rolling. 

Of the performing arts, IU is not known especially well for its comedy. Every year, though, Funny 501 is incredibly well-attended by audiences that leave in stitches. As a completely student-led production, it shows the passion these comedians have for their craft, as well as demonstrating the comedic skill of the IU community across multiple disciplines.

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