Those who’ve seen “Saturday Night Live” will appreciate the parallels with Maddy Night Live, one of JMU’s comedy sketch groups. The group performs multiple shows throughout the year, all structured loosely around the popular TV show.
MNL is made up of 13 tight-knit students who meet multiple times a week to rehearse and write sketches. All of the shows they perform are free and held in Grafton-Stovall Theater or Taylor Down Under.
On Sunday, the group held their annual Best Of/Senior Show. This was a time for each senior in the group to pick a favorite sketch they’ve performed throughout their time with MNL and highlight some of the best sketches from the 2017-18 year.
Alex Jacobs, a senior communication studies major and president of MNL, says the group’s primary goal is to make other people laugh while having fun in the process.
“You learn that the best comedy is just what makes you laugh,” Jacobs said. “There are so many things that feel like the end of the world in the moment, but MNL has really taught me to be able to take a step back and enjoy myself.”
Upon joining the group, some members said they were overwhelmed with feelings of nervousness and inadequacy. When Jacobs joined as a freshman, he felt pressure to be funny all the time and says this made him feel like he wasn’t fitting in with the group. However, he looks back now and recognizes he had nothing to worry about.
“You don’t realize that you got on the team because they already thought you were funny,” Jacobs said. “You don’t have anything left to prove — you just have to be yourself.”
“Maddy Night Dead” was one of the group’s favorite shows from this year. The show revolved around a murder mystery. The storyline includes the cast trying to figure out who was killing everyone in the group.
One of the writers of “Maddy Night Dead,” Ethan Schulze, a sophomore media arts and design major and videographer for the group, wrote the show with his roommate Quinton.
“It was the most work we’ve ever done for any show,” Schulze said. “But we’re very proud of that.”
In the end, it was revealed that Gabby Katz, the stage manager of the group, was the murderer. Katz says this show was one of her favorites because the storyline challenged her ability to think outside the box.
“Everyone is so talented and good at what they do,” Katz, a sophomore media arts and design and international affairs double major, said. “It’s motivational to see people doing so well because it makes you want to do better.”
MNL isn’t just a club designed for comedy, but it places an emphasis on the importance of working together as a team. Katz says she auditioned her freshman year because she thought the people were interesting, not necessarily because she wanted to be part of a comedy team.
However, Katz says MNL has completely changed the trajectory of her college career. She’s gained confidence in her writing abilities and also made her core group of friends through MNL.
“Each person is so unique, and each person is so essential to the team,” Katz says. “And I think that sometimes, we lose track of that. We have to remind ourselves that without just one person, you lose something special.”
The group has also inspired Jacobs to run for president this past year. The dynamic and uniqueness everyone brings to each sketch reminds him why he’s enjoyed performing with everyone so much.
“You shouldn’t have to pay to laugh,” Jacobs said. “I can’t say someone is going to leave a better person, but if we can have fun with people we don’t know and leave more people at JMU smiling, then that’s our goal.”
The group recognizes that people can see the passion behind what they do at each show. They hope for audiences to have a good laugh and escape any stress from school.
“We’ve come together to do what we love and spread that joy to other people,” Katz said. “We’re all kind of misfits and we don’t fit into one specific group, but that’s how we all kind of found each other. We make each other laugh, and people gravitate toward that.”
Contact Andrea Brusig at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.