Senior Chris Gillespie is exploring the unconventional interplay between music and comedy by refining his own version of B-sides: unseen sketches. He plans to hit the “replay” button on nearly two years of sketch-writing work in one night of comedy.
On Sunday, Nov. 16, at 8 p.m., Gillespie is performing his directed study sketch show, “You’ll Never Work In This Town Again!,” in the Multipurpose Room. The show’s title pays homage to his final performance at Emerson and embraces the temporary nature of his cast and content.
“You’ll Never Work In This Town Again” consists of fourteen sketches all written by Gillespie, a writing, literature, and publishing major. The content dates as far back as fall 2012.
Gillespie said that comedians generally don’t reuse their work, even if they receive a positive response. Conversely, he added, musicians generally play the same songs at multiple venues. He said that while five of the sketches have been performed prior to his show, the others never made it to the stage.
“I don’t believe that artists should necessarily scrape the bottom of the barrel when searching for material to release,” said Gillespie, “but they should definitely be open to revisiting past projects that they still enjoy, even if the ideas have been previously rejected or turned down.”
He added that he draws inspiration from artists who take previously unreleased tracks, polish them, and release them as quality work.
“I’ll be the first to admit that I am capable of generating some real unfunny, trite garbage,” said Gillespie, “but I do believe that this is the time and cast that these unseen sketches were meant to happen with.”
Gillespie said Jack White of the White Stripes influenced him because he is a well-established artist who not only does work for the band, but also on side projects.
“It’s not all about him all the time, which is something I am also striving for,” said Gillespie. “Just because it’s my grade on the report card at the end of the day doesn’t mean I want it to be the Chris Gillespie show. It’s not all about me.”
Though Gillespie is president of Emerson Comedy Workshop, he invited sketch comedians from across the college to his casting auditions. He said he admired White’s ability to blaze his own path and attempted to do the same with his unconventional ensemble.
“It was important to me, when casting, to make this project something that could serve a greater function than just my show,” said Gillespie. “Getting members from different troupes to work together breaks down divisions and creates a new means of producing sketch comedy at the school.”
Gillespie recruited ten members and named the group Crowd-Pleaser and the LA Rejekts. Some members are performing for sketch comedy for the first time while others come from established troupes like ECW, Chocolate Cake City, The Girlie Project, Stroopwafel, and Police Geese.
“I go to shows and see others perform on campus and I’m like, ‘If I could write for them or perform alongside them that would be so much fun,’” said Gillespie. “Now I’m here and I’m so lucky that I get to make this happen with them and that they’re willing to indulge in this weird project.”
One of Gillespie’s sketches features a man who determinedly orders flapjacks at a hardware store. The scene is peppered with bold, potentially-offensive humor, thick accents, and a blend of comedic styles between members of ECW and Police Geese. In past performances, Gillespie characterized the man’s mannerisms as that of a Southern version of Shrek.
Magi Calcagne, a sophomore visual and media arts major, said that the inter-troupe involvement is what drew her to audition for the show.
“It’s so much fun to get to work with people from other troupes because you don’t get to do that often,” said Calcagne, a member of Chocolate Cake City and one of Gillespie’s actors. “Even at all-troupe shows, you’re still working within your own and just watching others.”
Calcagne said the show is effective in connecting comedians across campus.
“Getting to combine styles is really amazing,” said Calcagne. “At rehearsals I’m laughing for different reasons in the room than I would at a Chocolate Cake City meeting.”
In one sketch entitled “An Actual Mailman,” sophomore Charlie Brewer brings her boyfriend to lunch to meet her father, a U.S. Postal Service worker played by Calcagne. The sketch romanticizes Calcagne’s profession; once Brewer’s boyfriend discovers her father’s line of work, the two delve into an overly excited conversation about the quirks of being a postman. The scene combines the comedic styles of the actors featured in it, contrasting exaggerated facial expressions with snarky, quick-witted humor.
Brewer, a visual and media arts major in ECW, said that her style is most influenced by her troupe, but other members of the cast bring their own strengths to the sketches. While the cast features everyday characters like a mailman, an adoptive family, a dentist, an employer, and a clerk, the actors deliver them with their own twists, she said.
“It’s funny to see how each troupe is different,” said Brewer. “We’re not warring styles at all either; they fit together really well because everybody just wants the audience to have a good time.”