The Notre Dame Humor Artists see funny business as no laughing matter. Senior co-presidents Alec Vanthournout and Stephen Elser are gearing up for an upcoming show at Legends on Oct. 3 and one in Washington Hall on Oct. 11, and Elser said their experience alleviates their stage fright. “Our flexibility of improv helps,” Elser said. “We can do so many shows because it’s a lot of fun for us and it seems like the audience enjoys it.” Elser said he and Vanthournout are working on recruiting more members for the 30-person group. “There is a six-week training program. Each week, Meghan Brown, rectress of Lyons [Hall], runs a focus program on some particular aspect of humor,” Elser said. “[The students auditioning] then will present a show and people are invited back.” Vanthournout said the group doesn’t have much time to prepare for most of its shows. “Legends shows are known in advance, but we do a lot of shows on short notice,” he said. Vanthournout said the group performs four times per semester at Legends, which are the biggest in terms of campus audience. They also do shows in dorms, before football games, in the library, in front of the Fisher Roof Sit and with Hannah and Friends, an organization that works to improve the quality of life for children and adults with special needs, he said. For two years now, Vanthournout said, 480 seats out of 500 in Washington Hall were filled for their shows there. “We like to check out the venue, attendance and how many games we can play, and then see how many people can be in the games based on the chemistry in the group,” Elser said. At one of the group’s Washington Hall shows, Elser said the Humor Artists performed with the a cappella group Halftime. “The crowd has an immense energy. Being there and having a show that goes as well as it does is exciting,” he said. “We wrote a script and learned lines. Having everything come together and the audience loving it feels really rewarding.” Elser said his responsibilities as co-president include meetings with the Student Activities Office and other officers, on top of eight hours of straight improv per week, but the role isn’t necessarily work for him. “It’s a great time to relax and just laugh,” he said. Vanthournout said he enjoys the group’s practices. “I never think, ‘Oh dang! I have to go to improv practice,’” he said. “It’s a lot of fun and I look forward to it every week.” The Humor Artists earned the distinction Club of the Year last year because of its hard work, but Elser said the group only received a certificate for the honor. “We didn’t even get the concession stand [Humor Artists] was promised,” Vanthournout said. Elser said the group is still proud of the award. “We remind our audiences of it constantly,” he said. Vanthournout said the group is branching out beyond live improv by making digital shorts on YouTube under the account “HumorArtistsofND.” Elser said the group also manages a Facebook page and a Twitter account under the handle @HA_ND. Even though students can watch Humor Artists’ skits online, Elser said he still recommends they attend the group’s shows. “If you like laughter, and general merriment, come to Humor Artists’ shows, because that’s what we provide,” he said. “I’ve never talked to anyone who said that they hated the show,” he said. “How could they? We’re the Club of the Year.”
View Comments Broadway Balances America Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Broadway Balances America, a special six-part series airing on Lifetime Television’s The Balancing Act, returns on November 6 with an exclusive look at the touring production of Newsies. Tune in as The Balancing Act takes viewers behind the scenes of Disney’s smash hit musical with the show’s Tony-winning choreographer Christopher Gattelli and some of the cast members from the Broadway tuner to find out what it takes to be a “newsie” on stage.In this episode, correspondent Amber Milt travels to New York to cast a spotlight on “Get Up and Go,” the new Disney wellness and fitness national initiative, which promotes fun ways for kids to lead healthier lifestyles inspired through the show’s Tony-winning choreography and music. She’ll also learn the show’s iconic “newspaper dance” from the thrilling Act I closer “Seize the Day.” The “Get Up and Go” program is brought to schools across the country to show students how they can be physically active through dance.In addition to interviews with Gattelli and some of the show’s “newsies,” we’ll hear from Liana Hunt, the actress who played Katherine in the Broadway production, regarding the importance of balancing personal life, nutrition and health with a busy performance schedule on Broadway and on the road.Set in New York City at the turn of the century, Newsies is inspired by the real life newsboy strike of 1899 and is the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a ragged band of teenaged “newsies,” who dreams only of a better life far from the hardship of the streets. But when publishing titans Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack finds a cause to fight for and rallies “newsies” from across the city to strike for what’s right.Newsies features a Tony-winning score with music by eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman, a book by four-time Tony winner Harvey Fierstein and direction by Tony nominee Jeff Calhoun. The entire creative team has reunited to bring the break-out smash musical to audiences across North America.Visit the official Broadway Balances America website to discover more about this exciting new series and to find out which Broadway musicals will also be featured!