In the summer of 2016, the Wolf Pack Comedy Club languished in purgatory. The old leader did not renew its club status, and many feared that no one on campus would ever laugh again. Then, a savior came along and revived the club and restored comedy at UNR. Rachel Katz, now a senior studying journalism, is the comedy club’s fearless leader.
On Feb. 16 and 17, 11 students from the comedy club at the University of Nevada, Reno, traveled to Los Angeles to perform sketch comedy for the first time at Sketchella, a festival hosted by the University of Southern California. Students from the University of California, Los Angeles, Arizona State University and Cal State University also performed.
“Sketchella was, like a first kiss, a gratifying yet humbling experience,” said comedy club member Cullin Schumacher. “We went fairly confident in our material, but seeing other comedy troupes really makes us wanting to do more, better.”
At Sketchella, UNR’s comedy club performed sketches with premises including auditions for “Black Panther” entirely by white actors (written by Katz wherein she plays Christopher Walken), a drug deal ruined by the theme song to “Reba” (“I’m a Survivor” by Reba McEntire), Katz’s “coming out party” where she comes out to her Mormon friends as Jewish, a sex scene from “Ratatouille” where Remy controls Linguini as he makes love to Collette, a scenario where a young man’s parents are shocked and disgusted when they walk in on him alone in his room performing ventriloquism and a bank robber and bank teller performing the finale from “Dirty Dancing.”
Schumacher wrote and performed in the bank teller sketch. “I got to kiss a fellow performer, Vincent, right on his stubble.”
After performing, they received a standing ovation. Some of the workers in the light booth missed their cues because they were laughing too hard.
“I was backstage helping out a majority of our show, but hearing laughter all the way from the back was a thrilling thing,” said Wolf Pack Comedy Club Vice President Viviane Ugalde. “Our members are smart and funny people.”
Katz says any sketch is only as good as the energy put in by the performers. “If you have the right people who aren’t afraid to be silly and goofy, then I think any sketch would potentially be really funny.”
“Sketch comedy is never well done,” Schumacher said. “If it were, it wouldn’t work. It is cheap to create, requires only 3-4 minutes of your time, and leaves enough to the audiences imagination to fill in the blanks.”
Aside from performances, Sketchella held panels with comedy writers on Saturday who spoke about their experiences in the industry. Guests included “Comedy Bang Bang!” writer Dan Klein, “Broad City” writer Naomi Ekperigin and “Adam Ruins Everything” writer Glenn Boozan.
“The best thing the panel said was to just keep writing,” Katz said. “I know it sounds cliche but no one is going to hire someone who has nothing to show for themselves.”
Wolf Pack Comedy Club Vice President Viviane Ugalde said her favorite panelist was Ekperigin.
“She gave great advice about writing comedically in different situations, and how to keep writing even if you don’t feel like you’re funny enough,” Ugalde said.
Schumacher’s favorite panelist was Klein.
“He told us all to fail, and that’s really easy to do,” Klein said “Not everything will work, so don’t treat it like it will.”
Katz prefers writing sketches over anything else.
“I personally like to write a lot,” Katz said, “I think stand-up is cool, but I like being with people and it’s kind of lonely doing standup. I like having a conversation.”
“Live Sketch Comedy is this weird thing that is amazing to see,” Ugalde said. “It’s supposed to be pre-written, but sometimes a line is forgotten or something happens and the troupe member will improv, and it will be funnier than what was written. It is the best to see funny people work on their feet. I think it works so well because audiences can relate to almost anything, so starting with four people sitting at a table has the audience already committed to whatever is about to happen next. Whether it be robots, or a dinner scene.”
UNR’s comedy club has approximately 15 rotating performers.
“I got into comedy club to disappoint my parents,” Schumacher said.
“I think everyone’s funny in their own way,” Katz said. “That’s just my opinion. If they weren’t funny I wouldn’t invite them to things. We’ve got a guy that looks like Zach Galifianakis…mixed with Charles Manson, now that I think about it…”
Katz plans to pursue comedy after her spring graduation. She hopes to get a job at NBC and work up the ranks until she can submit her pilot: “A Synagogue in Tonopah.”
“It’s about this Rabbi and her name is Rachel Katz,” Katz said. “She goes back to Tonopah where she’s from, she’s been in Rabbinical school and running a Synagogue there. So she goes back to Tonopah to revamp her childhood synagogue in Tonopah, Nevada.”
Looking ahead, there are plans to do a stand-up show, a variety show and a collaboration with the Libertarian club before the end of the semester. Meetings take place every Thursday 6:30 p.m. in the Joe for anyone interested in joining.