By Brynne Ramella
The first hint that I’ve been hanging around this group too long? One of them tries to get me to leave before the interview starts.
“No sick people allowed!” Bill Lacy shouted, as I walked into the dimly-lit Humphrey Hall auditorium, announcing my presence with a cough that belongs in the film, “Contagion.”
The next step, after they allowed me to stay, was to mess with my cell phone, which I was using to record the interview. Bill looked at Charlie Mohl, and simply asked, “Ready?” Bill dropped a beat, and Charlie busted out a crude, impromptu rap into my phone.
The funny thing about Bill and Charlie, co-presidents of the sketch comedy troupe 33rd & State, is their minds seem to work in tandem. I conducted my last interview with them in a cramped hallway where Charlie pretended he was trapped on the ledge of a building. Bill played along. Maybe it comes from the fact that this is their second comedy group together. Maybe it’s because they’re roommates. All I know is, it works.
Once they decided to behave, we got to the point – why they decided to form 33rd & State at Marquette University.
“It’s something that has been discussed by everybody (in the Studio 013 Refugees improv group), but no one took the initiative,” Bill said. “So this year, Charlie and I decided to do a meeting.”
Charlie compares Bill’s and his role to that of Lorne Michaels, with “Saturday Night Live.”
“[We try] to wrangle everybody’s different sensibilities of comedy,” Charlie said.
They work with other members to enhance sketches using the improv approach of “yes and.” They build off the writers’ original ideas to develop scenes. As the leaders, they also have to push fellow writers to bring forth more material.
To build a fan base, the group releases weekly videos (including the one below) and Tweets under the handle @33rdandstate. I have even been a victim of occasional Twitter-bullying from this account, thanks to writer/performer and head Tweeter, Spencer Rose.
33rd & State is working to create a name for itself before its debut show in April. Afterward, the group will be out of the hands of Bill and Charlie, who are seniors.
“Our hope is that it stays alive after we graduate,” Charlie said.
Bill added: “Who knows what it will evolve to?”
Brynne Ramella, a journalism student at Marquette University, is a guest blogger for MilwaukeeComedy, documenting the start-up of Marquette’s sketch comedy troupe, 33rd & State. This is the fourth in her series of reports.