We Be Jammin’ at UMass’ Annual Comedy Jam

By Jeremy Paskoff

Justin Surgent/Collegian

Student Valley Productions will begin its annual Comedy Jam this weekend in Room 65 of Bartlett Hall. The event will run over two days, with performances on both Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 10 p.m., and admission is free to all.

Student Valley Productions is the comedy club at the University of Massachusetts. The group was founded on Jan. 1, 1986, by six students involved in the drama department, and SVP has been performing comedy for over two decades. In 1990, it was officially acknowledged as a Registered Student Organization (RSO). Currently, SVP is made up of three groups: Improv with Attitude (IWA), Sketch 22 and Mission: IMPROVable. In the past, SVP has been home to several other comedy troupes, such as Beck’s Backroom Boys, Clothing Optional!, Liberal Island, Sketch Me if You Can, The Improverts and Pain Dungeon. While these groups have not stayed in SVP over the years, the latest lineup still performs almost every weekend, delivering laughs aplenty. These groups are very popular, and have even attracted a dedicated fan base; regular fans can be seen at almost every performance.

Performing at the event will be the aforementioned groups that make up SVP. The different troupes vary greatly from its methods of comedy. IWA is best known for its long-form improv, while Sketch 22 focuses more on sketch comedy in the same vein as Saturday Night Live. Students involved in the groups typically write their own sketches, and the ones shown this weekend will most likely be created by undergrads.

Mission: IMPROVable is UMass’ oldest on-campus comedy group, which describes itself as a “family-friendly comedy troupe,” and whose acts are very reminiscent of “Whose Line is it Anyway?” with brief musical interludes. Members of Mission: IMPROVable assure the audience that their performances are as interactive as possible, and use crowd participation to come up with themes for their next improv game.

The event is not exclusive to Amherst acts, as there are guests from all over America. Chicago-based group Los Dos Dudes, Los Angeles group Shockwave and New York City’s North Coast will also be in attendance as well as Boston comedian Danielle Soto, Improv Boston’s Big Bang and the mysterious Wingz over Amherst: Just Wing It.

Since different acts are performing on two different nights, one can expect two totally different experiences. The lineup for Friday will consist of headlining group Sketch 22, followed by Los Dos Dudes, Improv Boston’s Big Bang and closing with Shockwave. Saturday will feature more of UMass’ very own sketch groups, including IWA and Mission:IMPROVable back-to-back.

Sketch 22 alum Soto, who has performed all over New England, started her comedy career at UMass. She will be headlining the show on Saturday, with Wingz over Amherst right after her. Closing out that night will be North Coast with its unique freestyle rapping improv. Those who enjoy the performance of the New York group will be able to access some of its music available on its website at northcoast.improvteams.com.

Jeremy Paskoff can be reached at [email protected]