From Los Angeles to Skidmore College to right here at Emerson, Jimmy’s Traveling All-Stars’ eventful spring semester filled crowds with laughter at every possible turn. As their last show nears, the sketch comedy troupe reflects on a successful season, how they prepare for performances, and the meaningfulness of their tight-knit bond.
Whether it’s someone’s fourth year or first semester with Jimmy’s, the group feels like family for those involved. The collaborative team writes sketches or is always preparing for something at their weekly meetings every Sunday, which they treat as a catharsis from all the other things going on in their busy lives. Though Jimmy’s specializes in sketch comedy, there’s always an improv show held in the middle of every semester, exemplifying their versatility.
Sophomore comedic arts major and treasurer for the student organization Zoe Seitz emphasizes Jimmy’s as an ideal environment for any writer, comic, actor, or anybody interested in performing arts to showcase their creativity. This is Seitz’s second semester with the troupe, which she describes as a place that keeps everyone laughing in a warm, welcoming way.
“It’s a place where you can feel you can come to and be comfortable, no matter how you’re feeling,” Seitz said. “The main story that new members get told, each Jimmy holds with them that this is a place where you can call another home.”
As for the creation of the group, new members are jokingly told the origin of who Jimmy is, which senior acting BFA Will Martella—loosely titled the creative director—called a “made up story.” In contrast, Seitz laughed about it being a gorgeous one, bringing tears to her eyes. Funnily struggling to remember the creator’s name, Martella credited Dan Levy ‘02 as the founder of the troupe back in 2000.
Martella mentioned how a big part of the troupe is the theatrics, notably saying they refer to themselves as “theater kids.” From the start, it has been a place outside of musicals and plays that people who love comedy performance can do. Though it was created over 20 years ago when there were only a select handful of comedy troupes on campus, it’s easy to label it as that, but members feel as though it’s so much more.
“If we can do something spectacle, that’s a big thing,” Martella said. “Something to get the crowd riled up because that’s what they want at the end of the day. It’s the one place on campus, and really just life, that people know me really well and can bust my balls. Also, just really see me for the person I am and appreciate my own creativity, which is something I’ve never had.”
According to Seitz, a typical meeting is silly and very goofy. Every gathering is eventful and chaotic in the best way, doing anything from watching old videos, writing, pitching, casting, or rehearsing for an upcoming show. Both Seitz and Martella agree that a crucial component of every meeting is Rose, Bud, Thorn, an hour-long discussion that allows everyone to bond and express themselves before getting to business.
“If you haven’t heard of it, it’s the best part of your week, the worst part of your week, and something you’re looking forward to,” Martella said. “That’s when we can just let it all out, put it out on the space. I don’t pay attention after that.”
Every show starts with a warm-up circle of screaming and chanting, where positive energy radiates throughout the performance center. The troupe loves performing for themselves, however, all of the fun is also for the crowd they get to meet.
“It’s all about making others, for the temporary time being, happy and leaving that space feeling as pumped up as we are,” Seitz said. “It’s always in the hopes of making somebody laugh, smile, or have a good time. If we can provide that for people the way that Jimmy’s has done for me or the way comedy has done as a whole, it’s an honor.”
Given the “traveling” in the name, Jimmy’s gets to expand their horizons by frequently going to comedy festivals outside of Boston, showcasing their work and learning from other comedians. Invited by USC’s Fourth Quarter All-Stars, the group got to attend Sketchella in LA earlier this year, noticed because of the name similarity, which Fourth Quarter told them they didn’t steal. For Martella and Seitz, the experience was fast-paced and tiring, yet awesome. Compared to the home base of an Emerson writer’s room, the tensions of the show allowed for a great learning lesson.
“That process of being really on our toes and genuinely stressed out in a performance setting was actually so great,” Martella said. “That’s when you build the most close bonds with your fellow performers.”
Seitz credited President Grace Guy for organizing the trip, saying it would not have been possible without her. The soon-to-be graduating senior was assisted by Emerson for their travel plans, which Martella gave props to for finally “choking up some money,” jokingly saying to throw him a bone. With many past Jimmy’s members now in LA, the troupe was able to meet some of the Emersonian alumni, calling it an honor to perform with them
“[The festival] was a great networking tool because now we met a bunch of other awesome, funny people as well that we can go back and see in the future,” Seitz said. “I have an LA performance under my belt now. It was an unforgettable experience that I will carry with me forever.”
Most recently, Jimmy’s attended Skidmore College’s 2022 Comfest April 1-2, which they attend every year. After first getting into Jimmy’s, Seitz was told to be the most excited for this event. Although Martella didn’t attend this year, he compared the people at Skidmore as similar to the Emerson community, besides being secluded in the woods. Performing alongside troupes from schools like NYU and Cornell, it’s an opportunity for everyone involved to network, with Seitz thinking of it as a business trip of sorts.
“Getting to see all these new people and getting to have your eyes open to all this amazing comedy, not only here but other places, is so awesome while making new memories and gathering material,” Seitz said. “You learn so much when you’re out with the people you love most, getting to do what you love most.”
Upcoming, Jimmy’s Traveling All-Stars will be performing at the EVVYs May 6, in which Guy will be co-hosting, prompting Martella to jokingly say “hashtag nepotism.” Members received some nominations as well, such as Guy’s outstanding writing for stage for “Zephyr” and their outstanding comedy sketch performance for “Welcome to Heaven.” Written by members Clare Jackson, Matthew Miller, and Hannah Berkowitz, the story follows two “quirky, zany, out-of-this-world” orientation leaders for heaven, which is no longer the ideal place to be.
“I’ve loved watching [Matt] act ever since I was a freshman,” Martella said. “He’s one of the best actors that has walked into Emerson in the past couple of years. Clare is an insanely talented writer, so when they get together, they’re unstoppable. It’s like an unstoppable force meets an even more unstoppable force.”
Comedy holds a special place in both Seitz and Martella’s hearts, and getting to share their craft with Jimmy’s tops it all. Getting to perform for an audience is almost therapeutic for the two. For Martella, who is a senior, getting to share the stage one last time, with his talented friends and be his authentic self is encouraging.
“As far as doing sketch comedy in general, I like getting the laughs, it’s an adrenaline rush like nothing else,” Martella said. “Anyone that says anything different, they’re lying.”
Jimmy’s has become a main source of motivation for Seitz, both as a comedian and a person. As she counts down the days of the week until every next Jimmy’s meeting—which will soon turn into months as the semester draws to a close—Seitz knows comedy is the path for her, as her major goal is to supply a release for those who need one.
“I know comedy has saved me in some ways, and comedy is always a great way to get people away for a moment from the seriousness of everything going on,” Seitz said. “Getting to be a part of the Jimmys and getting to see how they can provide that for people, and provide a temporary escape for people just even for an hour, is exactly where I want to be right now.”
With many of the troupe’s veterans leaving after this semester, Martella and Seitz invite everyone to try out at the start of the next school year.
“The Jimmy’s magic is real, it’s awesome,” Seitz said. “If you’re looking to have a good time and be surrounded by people who will love you endlessly and be freaks, that’s what we are all about.”