Humor Artists maintain success
Kyle Witzigman | Thursday, September 26, 2013
The Notre Dame Humor Artists see funny business as no laughing matter.
Senior co-presidents Alec Vanthournout and Stephen Elser are gearing up for an upcoming show at Legends on Oct. 3 and one in Washington Hall on Oct. 11, and Elser said their experience alleviates their stage fright.
“Our flexibility of improv helps,” Elser said. “We can do so many shows because it’s a lot of fun for us and it seems like the audience enjoys it.”
Elser said he and Vanthournout are working on recruiting more members for the 30-person group.
“There is a six-week training program. Each week, Meghan Brown, rectress of Lyons [Hall], runs a focus program on some particular aspect of humor,” Elser said. “[The students auditioning] then will present a show and people are invited back.”
Vanthournout said the group doesn’t have much time to prepare for most of its shows.
“Legends shows are known in advance, but we do a lot of shows on short notice,” he said.
Vanthournout said the group performs four times per semester at Legends, which are the biggest in terms of campus audience. They also do shows in dorms, before football games, in the library, in front of the Fisher Roof Sit and with Hannah and Friends, an organization that works to improve the quality of life for children and adults with special needs, he said.
For two years now, Vanthournout said, 480 seats out of 500 in Washington Hall were filled for their shows there.
“We like to check out the venue, attendance and how many games we can play, and then see how many people can be in the games based on the chemistry in the group,” Elser said.
At one of the group’s Washington Hall shows, Elser said the Humor Artists performed with the a cappella group Halftime.
“The crowd has an immense energy. Being there and having a show that goes as well as it does is exciting,” he said. “We wrote a script and learned lines. Having everything come together and the audience loving it feels really rewarding.”
Elser said his responsibilities as co-president include meetings with the Student Activities Office and other officers, on top of eight hours of straight improv per week, but the role isn’t necessarily work for him.
“It’s a great time to relax and just laugh,” he said.
Vanthournout said he enjoys the group’s practices.
“I never think, ‘Oh dang! I have to go to improv practice,’” he said. “It’s a lot of fun and I look forward to it every week.”
The Humor Artists earned the distinction Club of the Year last year because of its hard work, but Elser said the group only received a certificate for the honor.
“We didn’t even get the concession stand [Humor Artists] was promised,” Vanthournout said.
Elser said the group is still proud of the award.
“We remind our audiences of it constantly,” he said.
Vanthournout said the group is branching out beyond live improv by making digital shorts on YouTube under the account “HumorArtistsofND.” Elser said the group also manages a Facebook page and a Twitter account under the handle
Even though students can watch Humor Artists’ skits online, Elser said he still recommends they attend the group’s shows.
“If you like laughter, and general merriment, come to Humor Artists’ shows, because that’s what we provide,” he said.
“I’ve never talked to anyone who said that they hated the show,” he said. “How could they? We’re the Club of the Year.”