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Going out with a laugh: three comedic shows to wrap up the semester

Stand-up, improv, sketch comedy -- you can catch it all this week when all three of Miami's comedy performance clubs host their last shows of the semester.

Not Very Funny, the stand-up comedy club, performs its last show on Tuesday, May 7 at 8 p.m. Sketched Out and the Sketch Writing and Acting Group (SWAG) will host their last performances this weekend, with Sketched Out's at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and SWAG's at 9 p.m. on Friday, May 10.

Despite the close timing of the shows this week, each of the three groups will present different forms and varieties of comedy to their audiences.

Not Very Funny, despite their name, tries to generate laughs at its shows through stand-up comedy, in which individual members of the club perform sets they've written before.

Junior Kristofer Gulvezan, the incoming president of the club, says it's the individuality aspect of stand-up that makes it stand out from other comedy forms.

"It doesn't matter if you're a professional or just starting out like us, almost every joke is based on ideas that have been talked about before," Gulvezan said. "It's how you put your perspective on it and get the audience to laugh that makes it unique."

Though Not Very Funny members bounce ideas off one another at their practices, the final sets for each performer are ultimately up to that person. Because of this process and the different personalities of each performer, there is a mix of humor at each of the shows.

"We have members who make PC jokes and get a lot of laughs and others who make edgy jokes that people wouldn't normally want to talk about, and they still get laughs," Gulvezan said. "I think if you're good at what you do, you can get people to laugh eventually."

While individuality is important in stand-up, "group mind" is the key to successful improv performances, which is what the members of Sketched Out focus on.

Though all of the shows are made up on the spot, and there's no set material to memorize or rehearse, the team still spends four hours a week in rehearsal. Senior Olivia Prosser, the president of Sketched Out, says that learning to trust the other members of the team and understand the way they think is important for when the group gets on stage in front of an audience.

"We practice improv techniques a lot, but every single time, once we get on that stage, I have no idea how the show is going to go," Prosser said. "We are as excited to see where the show is going to go as the audience is. We're just watching with bated breath, which is unique to improv."

Sketched Out is the longest-running and cleanest of the comedy groups in terms of the content they typically perform. By contrast, SWAG is Miami's newest comedy-focused club and the group often gravitates toward more risque humor.

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Despite having a similar name to Sketched Out, SWAG also focuses on an entirely different style of comedy. The group performs pre-written comedy sketches at its shows, akin to "Saturday Night Live," though president and senior Frannie Comstock says their humor isn't always similar.

"Sketch comedy is great because, for me, it's kind of an underground form of comedy. I don't think a lot of people are super into it, but it comes and goes in waves," Comstock said. "We're not super alternative, but I would call us a little more edgy than SNL; we have a different sensibility."

As a relatively new organization, Comstock has found that it's hard to engage people in the comedy scene at Miami.

"It's been difficult on Miami's campus to get people to engage with more alternative humor. I think once people come to shows, they usually like it and come to more, but it's just difficult to get people to come in the first place," Comstock said. "People see the name of a comedy troupe they're not familiar with and they're like 'Why would I come to this?' which is fair when there's so many orgs on campus putting on great events."

In the final week of the semester, a variety of comedic flavors are on offer. Whether it's through on-the-spot improv, structured stand-up or written and rehearsed sketches, the comedy groups of campus seek to send the school year off with a laugh.