Annual ‘Revue’ to incorporate political themes in comedic sketches
Courtney Becker | Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Move over, Alec Baldwin — the Knights of Keenan Hall are entering the political satire arena with this year’s Keenan Revue, “State of the Revuenion.”
The Revue will be performed at 7 p.m. in Stepan Center on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Senior Jean Carlo Yunen, this year’s Keenan Revue director, said the idea for the theme developed from a desire to bring the Notre Dame community together through laughter in spite of any political disagreements.
“Seeing the country divided and the current political situation, we thought we could do something about it,” he said. “Not make fun just because we want to make fun, but [knowing] we could bring people together in laughter despite what their differences were and make a commentary on what the state [of the country] is. [It] doesn’t necessarily drive most of our skits in many ways, but it’s something that is still there.”
While the idea for the State of the Revuenion theme had been discussed in previous years, senior Revue producer T.J. Groden said the current political climate offered the perfect opportunity to explore the theme.
“State of the Revuenion was one of those puns that was on the list but didn’t get chosen,” he said. “Then this year, with all that was happening, it was just the sort of defining dialogue of the year. We thought it was an appropriate time to use that theme to engage in that dialogue a little bit.”
The Keenan Revue publicity directors capitalized on this year’s theme by putting up posters modeled after presidential candidate poster and staging mock protests against the Keenan Revue — during which Keenan Hall residents chanted “Not my Revue” — to generate increased buzz about the event, sophomore publicity director Henry Mulholland said.
“We usually do a flash mob dance, and we totally butchered it last year,” he said. “So we were trying to think of something else we could do and we thought it would be funny to have a protest against ourselves. … I think it was a really important year last year in terms of the election, and everything, so we all thought that would be a fun way to make fun of ourselves and also continue with the theme.”
Mulholland said he hopes those who might have had a negative reaction to the publicity campaign come to the Revue to engage in a dialogue about the various events the Revue will parody.
“Even if it does spark a little fire for people, I think it’s good,” he said. “I think what the Revue does is just kind of get people talking in a good way about topics that might be sensitive for people, so it’s a good thing overall that people will be coming out for the Revue based on however they feel.”
While some of the skits address national events and discussions, Groden said they all relate to the University in one way or another.
“Some of our more politically-bent skits involve Trump juxtaposed with a Notre Dame figure or put in a Notre Dame setting, so we’re sort of exploring those topics,” he said. “With those national topics we sort of bring it in to more of the Notre Dame [and] local level.”
Junior Wilson Barrett, returning head writer for the Revue, said adding aspects of Notre Dame to political skits allowed the writers to present a fresh take on frequently parodied figures and events.
“I think there’s so much conversation and comedy around President Trump right now that it’s hard to add a new voice to that conversation sometimes,” he said. “I think the place that we can lend our voice most strongly is maybe on a Notre Dame level. … I think that’s the fun of the Revue is that you throw in outside stuff and you let that affect what goes on, but I think it’s a Notre Dame show about Notre Dame.”
While some of the material in the Keenan Revue may be considered controversial, the head staff was careful to not cross any lines in deciding what to include in the show, something Groden said was not made any more difficult by this year’s theme.
“There were definitely a lot of skits that were way too inappropriate or they’re just a little or a lot over that line, and we wouldn’t put [that] onstage and put Keenan’s name behind it,” he said. “But I wouldn’t say that this year there were any of those that were because of the theme or the political dynamic.”
Junior John McDonough, one of two new head writers along with junior Michael Di Re, said while the head staff was conscious of not crossing any lines, they also gave Keenan Hall residents the freedom to take risks during tryouts.
“The tryouts the first time are just the Keenan guys, and we try to give the fairest feedback,” he said. “We’ve done this for a little bit, so we know what works and what’s okay and everything, but you’ve kind of got to give room for people to give it a shot, and then if you see them cross the line you pull them back.”
The process of creating the show and determining content is left primarily to the hall residents, Keenan rector Noel Terranova said.
“I just on the front end try to set the right vision for what we want the show to be,” he said. “For the most part, they kind of know how to produce the content that actually meets our goals of doing something that’s both funny and insightful and actually reflects the values of Keenan Hall and the Notre Dame community.”
Aside from political skits, Barrett said the show includes parodies of University President Fr. John Jenkins and head football coach Brian Kelly.
“I think on campus we have powerful or well-known people like coach Kelly and Fr. Jenkins that I think we’ve done a better job than ever [parodying],” he said. “And, obviously, Brian Kelly has done a better job than ever. We just want to say thank you to him, he’s done a great job in giving us material. … [Those are] the other areas that we delve into most, I’d say.”
Groden said this event would not be possible without the support of former Keenan Hall residents who offered donations to pay for the show.
“Our tickets are free — and they always have been — but we rely on the generous support of our alumni,” Groden said. “… It is tens of thousands of dollars to put on the show, so we really rely on [their generosity].
Aside from alumni contributions, however, the head staff relied on the support of current Keenan Hall residents to make the Revue a success. This year, Groden said, over half the Keenan Hall residents are involved with the Revue in one way or another.
“That was one of our big goals this year, was to try to get as many people involved — especially freshmen — as involved in the show as possible,” he said. “So there are only so many people that will be onstage and that you’ll see in the spotlight, but for every one person onstage there are five or six guys behind the scenes … [to] make the show possible.”