TheCome dyIssue de: i ns I , ,LOLs Laughs and ous i er wos t . ngs hi t
04.12.12 vol. xliii, no. 45 The Indy is laughing it up. Cover Design by
MIRANDA SHUGARS & SAYANTAN DEB
NEWS 3 HAPAs Have More Fun SPECIAL 4 Comedy 101: Laughing in Lecture 5 L ampooning 6 A nother P unny N ame (APN) 7 C racking U p the I ce 8 W hose P udding is it A ny way ? 9 I mmodest et G ratuitous ARTS 10 R adio M usic S ociety SPORTS 11 B alls + F oot = F unny As Harvard College's weekly undergraduate newsmagazine, the Harvard Independent provides in-depth, critical coverage of issues and events of interest to the Harvard College community. The Independent has no political affiliation, instead offering diverse commentary on news, arts, sports, and student life. For publication information and general inquiries, contact Co-Presidents Whitney Lee and Gary Gerbrandt (email@example.com). Letters to the Editor and comments regarding the content of the publication should be addressed to Editor-in-Chief Meghan Brooks (firstname.lastname@example.org). For email subscriptions please email email@example.com. The Harvard Independent is published weekly during the academic year, except during vacations, by The Harvard Independent, Inc., Student Organization Center at Hilles, Box 201, 59 Shepard Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. Copyright © 2012 by The Harvard Independent. All rights reserved
Co-President Co-President Editor-in-Chief Production Manager News and Forum Editor Associate News Editor Arts Editor Associate Arts Editor Sports Editor Design Editor Columnists
Gary Gerbrandt '14 Whitney Lee '14 Meghan Brooks '14 Miranda Shugars '14 Christine Wolfe '14 Carlos Schmidt '15 Sayantan Deb '14 Curtis Lahaie '15 Michael Altman '14 Angela Song '14 Will Simmons '14 Sanyee Yuan '12 Celia Zhang '13
Staff Writers Clare Duncan '14 Travis Hallett '14 Yuqi Hou '15 Cindy Hsu '14 Mohammed Hussain '15 Yuying Luo '12 Zena Mengesha '14 Marina Molarsky-Beck '15 Riva Riley '12 Kalyn Saulsberry '14 Marc Shi '14 Weike Wang '11 Faith Zhang '11 Graphics, Photography, and Design Staff Maria Barragan-Santana '14 Travis Hallett '14 Nina Kosaric '14 Alexandria Rhodes '14
Picks of the Week POST-PARTY POUTINE When: Saturday, April 14th from 11:55pm to 2:00am Where: Kirkland Grille What: The Harvard Canadian Club brings you Post-Party Poutine, a Saturday night study break for those wishing for a late night snack. For those unaware of what poutine is, fear not. Poutine is a delicious snack made of French fries covered in cheese and gravy. Since brain break won’t be in session, use this as an opportunity for a fun way to fight those late night munchies. YARDFEST When: Sunday, April 15th Where: Harvard Yard What: This Sunday, Harvard Yard will play host to YardFest, the annual spring concert extravaganza. This year’s performers are the Cataracs and Das Racist. The Cataracs are perhaps best known for being featured on “Like a G6” by Far East Movement (who were last year’s headlining act). Das Racist is a hip-hop group from Brooklyn, known for their single “Michael Jackson.” Unfamiliar with both groups? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Both groups are relatively new and are hardly household names. Meanwhile, U Penn’s Spring Fling will be featuring Tiëstoand Passion Pit, while Yale’s spring concert will feature T-Pain. At least this year Harvard students can enjoy the concert without hordes of pre-frosh roaming around.
04.12.12 • The Harvard Independent
So... What Are You, Anyway? Exploring multiracial identity at SWAYA 2012. By MEGHAN BROOKS “Do you use chopsticks, or forks?” “Well, you’re only half black so you don’t really…count.” “So which one do you identify more with?” “You have to like, choose one, right?” “So…What are you, anyway?”
hese were among the questions
ironically posed by members of Harvard’s Half-Asian People’s Association (HAPA) in their “Shit Mixed Kids Get” video, posted on YouTube about a week and a half before Harvard HAPA launched its fourth annual So… What Are You, Anyway? Conference (SWAYA). Although it played with the popular, often hilarious, and now ubiquitous “Shit _______ Say” meme, the promotional video, though tongue-in-cheek, was far from a joke. Highlighting the ambiguity of and assumptions behind mixed-race and multiethnic identities in a country where race is an obsession, the video pointed to the very issues that the SWAYA conference was founded to address. This year’s SWAYA conference, held in the SOCH last Friday evening and all last Saturday, focused on the personal, cultural, social, and political issues that surround mixed-raced identities in the United States, as have the SWAYA conferences of the
This year, Harvard HAPA presented its Cultural Pioneer Award to actress and author Diane Farr (of Numb3rs fame), whose struggle to publish her book on her interracial marriage, Kissing Outside the Lines, was the topic of the conference’s keynote lecture. Other speakers included Associated Press reporter Jesse Washington, who discussed the future of racial labels in America, Sarah Gaither, a doctoral student at Tufts who outlined her findings from her work on the social categorization of mixed-race people, and Ken Tanabe, founder of “Loving Day”, which celebrates the Lovings, the interracial couple whose Supreme Court fight abolished state laws against miscegenation. Amidst speakers and broader discussions on everything from the so-called “one-drop rule” to the exoticization of mixed people, Harvard HAPA president and conference organizer Eliza Nguyen ’14 noted that because mixed-race conferences are ultimately about identity, participants were encouraged to share their personal stories in discussion groups as a way of relating their own experiences to the issues at large. Although two attendees from Multiethnic Interracial Smith College (MISC), Hannah Saulton ’12 and Amirah Nelson ’10, felt that SWAYA’s participants and organizers’
Photos by Meghan Brooks
past three years. The conference, though open to the general public, tends to serve mixed college students at Harvard and from other universities and is scheduled around mixers, lectures, and smaller discussion groups. The Harvard Independent • 04.12.12
overreliance on individual narratives compromised the conference’s ability to discuss mixed-race issues critically, Nguyen stressed that SWAYA is a place to explore identity, personal stories included. And with the 2010 Census data in, there is enough
mixed-race experience in the United States to go around. As SWAYA 2012 exemplifies and U.S. Census data corroborates, mixed-race identity has become increasingly prominent in the United States even in the past decade. Today, one in seven marriages is interracial, and about 3% of Americans consider themselves multiracial. Predictably, the majority of this 3% is made up of younger Americans, which may account for the astounding 35% increase in this population subset since 2000. In short, with these statistics, it is not surprising that mixed-race and multiethnic organizations have become ubiquitous on college campuses, and that issues of mixed-race identity have become more pressing and visible in America’s ongoing dialogue on the race, ethnicity, and identity. Although there are cultural groups at Harvard for students tracing their heritage to almost any part of the globe, only one organization, Harvard HAPA, exists for multiracial students. However, while Harvard HAPA is open and welcoming to students of any ethnic or racial identity, it was founded to serve Harvard’s part-Asian community and will continue to fill that role. This is where the SWAYA conference comes in. According to Nguyen, although Harvard HAPA has existed since the early 1990s, its membership had waxed and waned until 2008. It was then when the club’s leadership realized that in order to remain relevant, the group had to establish itself as not only a fun social space for its members but also as a forum for discussing racial and ethnic identity openly and with a critical focus. This dual focus considered, SWAYA’s goal is well-aligned with that of Harvard HAPA. As Nguyen put it, both HAPA and SWAYA hope “to create a community of mixed-race individuals and to promote dialogue about issues pertaining to mixed-race identity and politics.” By lunchtime on Saturday, as approximately one hundred attendees sprawled across
the first floor lounge of the SOCH, introducing themselves by “mix” and joking about racist grandparents and Lebanese tacos, the makings of such a community were clearly present.
What is particularly inspiring about SWAYA’s emphasis on creating a larger community of mixed-race individuals is that it actually seems to be working. Nguyen noted that the majority of conference attendees each year are actually students from other colleges. Michaelle Larracuente, a recent Northeastern graduate who has attended SWAYA since its inception, was particularly enthusiastic about this aspect of the conference: “We started coming because we wanted to get more information on being mixed from other organizations,” she said, “and we knew that Harvard HAPA was doing a lot of things that we thought we could benefit from.” Hannah Saulton of Smith College was also impressed with the interorganizational networking SWAYA enabled: “I was in a group that talked about NAMSO, the National Association of Mixed Student Organizations…it’s helpful strategizing with other orgs [organizations] about what we can do to make our orgs more viable.” Apparently mixed students from Tufts agreed, as they approached Nguyen and Harvard HAPA board members during the conference, asking if they would sit down with them before the evening gala to discuss forming a mixed-race student organization on their campus. The eventual conversation was dynamic, and recounting the Tufts students’ enthusiasm for the idea, Nguyen considered this interaction her favorite moment of SWAYA 2012.
Continued on page 4...
SPECIAL ...continued from page 3 After a brief but busy day and a half that represented the culmination of three intense months of planning, Nguyen had this wish for SWAYA 2012’s participants: “I hope they were able to discuss issues
they don’t talk about frequently, especially the people who don’t have an organization to go to, and I hope that they found a community of students who have very different backgrounds but who have had similar experiences of exploring their identity, and I hope the conference
attendees really got the opportunity to take a look at themselves and explore how they identify themselves or how they wish to be perceived. I hope they had opportunities for personal introspection and a lot of reflecting.” Although the Indy’s poll of SWAYA
2012 participants was small and informal, from the look of things, Harvard HAPA was successful. Meghan Brooks ’14 (meghanbrooks@ college) is ¾ Irish Catholic and ¼ Irish Presbyterian. Does that count?
Dr. Faustus: An Academi-Comedy
Studying comedy, satire, and humour at an occasionally unfunny place.
rom a literary perspective ,
comedians have something unique to offer their readers; they present the world in an unusual light, injecting levity into the otherwise flat. Theirs is a craft outside the mainstream; comedic authors are somehow able to make people laugh amidst long clauses and complex plot constructions. It takes years for a humorist to hone his or her skills— constant editing and drafting can only take someone so far before unsatisfied audiences. The craft of comedy, though, is not something easily taught in a formal academic environment. A quick survey of today’s influential comedic writers and actors seems to showcase a standard pattern: they devote themselves to acting, theatre, or English in college, join an influential improv troupe, and then claw their way up to the top. Yet this does not mean one should consider the funnier arts completely out of reach. At Harvard, formal academics and professionals who have found themselves inside the laugh
By GARY GERBRANDT
factories of Hollywood and New York offer undergraduates opportunities to invest themselves in humor and to study the practice and production thereof. Michael Shinagel got his start at Harvard when he taught a section for Expository Writing in 1959 as a Ph.D. student in the English Department; after teaching at Cornell and Union College, he came back to work as the Dean of the Extension School in 1975. At various times, he has served as the Master of Quincy House and a senior lecturer on English. Much of his work has focused on Robinson Crusoe author Daniel Defoe and a broad selection of 19th-century literature. Every two years, though, he can be found teaching one of Harvard’s few comedy-focused courses, “English 153: Satire: Augustan and Modern.” The course invites its students to explore satire in the work of various influential authors across time, from Voltaire to Vonnegut. By taking the works and dissecting them as literature, the course allows students to enjoy and explore the readings
while imparting to them some of the comedic tactics of the great satirists of the English canon. Comedic courses here, however, go beyond the boundaries of the English language and even the literary approach. Harvard’s Committee on Dramatics—the influential collection of theatrical wisdom and acting prowess—offers an acting workshop specifically devoted to comedic performance, which asks its students to perform everything from Shakespeare to Steve Martin. Performers are given the opportunity to be seen by and get feedback from members of the American Repertory Theatre. Freshmen in particular have a special opportunity to connect with the funnier side of their academics. With the freedom granted by the structure of a Freshman Seminar, professors have decided to teach a few different acting courses, which allow for improvisation and a meaningful, lighthearted study of comedy (and acting more generally). Performance and engagement with comedy is
emphasized, reflecting the importance of practical experience in developing and honing comedic skills. Finally, for those among us who speak fluent German, a class is offered on Deutsche Komödie, which is exactly what it sounds like: an exploration of the things Germany has found funny in the past few centuries of its dramatic literature. Like the aforementioned acting workshop, it asks its students to perform parts of comedic plays and explore the deeper meaning and societal context of their humor. Harvard is not always the funniest place to be, but it has found ways to work humor and comedy into the dense courses, which prepare its students to take on the world. Perhaps it is good to have that lighter perspective integrated neatly into the course catalogue, even if it won’t necessarily make writing papers and finishing problem sets any funnier. Gary Gerbrandt ’14 (garygerbrandt@college) is waiting for the day he can look back on his time at Harvard and laugh like a maniac in a straitjacket.
Courtesy of WikiCommons
04.12.12 • The Harvard Independent
Sorry, the Lampoon isn't funny. By WILL SIMMONS
will begin with a scandalous
disclaimer – the views expressed below are solely those of the author, and do not reflect the opinions of the Indy staff. The biggest news this week is not the Adams-Quad battle, though, as an aside, I live and die by the supreme Pforzheimer House. Instead, everyone is talking about the return of William Tell All! I know that our entire campus was very worried about my brief hiatus; there were so many loose ends that needed to be tied. April-Marie’s story was left untold. I had to keep my love life mishaps to myself. Weeks went by without a wonderfully eloquent polemic about education, the arts, or life’s daily tribulations. Dinners must have been so boring without William Tell All as the centerpiece; what did you all talk about anyway? Speaking of feuds, it’s time for the Indy to get a piece of the action. This is our comedy issue, and, consequently, I thought I would peruse the humor offerings around our campus. I stumbled upon the latest issue of the Harvard Lampoon. I think to myself, “Well, this is a nationally-renowned and time-tested publication!” All the haters told me that the Lampoon hasn’t
The Harvard Independent • 04.12.12
been funny in years, but Will Simmons is all about love, equal opportunity, and acceptance. I therefore put the overwhelming dismissal of the publication aside in order to give it a fair chance. Unfortunately, the
Floor” so many times. To be clear, I would like to commend the designers for a beautifully illustrated product; however, y’all should probably find a new line of work wherein your efforts can be paired with worthy content. I
Lampoon is exactly like its clubhouse – useless, ostentatious, and filled with vapid characters. To begin, I would appreciate it if the Lampoon would change up their weekend playlist; I can only handle “Pon de
knew there was a problem when the second page was an ad for Vineyard Vines; need I say more? Page after page dragged on with not so much as a pity chuckle on my part. If I wanted to read a self-indulgent orgy of inside
jokes, I would have picked up The Advocate. The only humor that I can see in all this is the fact that this is such a well-known publication. My friend from home visited last week, and when she saw a copy of the Lampoon , she exclaimed, “Oh my God! Conan O’Brien wrote for them!” Who cares? Jimmy Fallon is funnier, and who even knows where he went to college? The wonderful thing about humor is its capacity for inclusiveness; in many ways, comedy can serve as the great equalizer that allows for a wide variety of people to find communion. After we clawed our way into Harvard, the last thing we should have to deal with is another exclusive group that spends its time producing ego-stroking nonsense. If you think about it, the Indy is like Scott Brown, the loveable everyman with occasional nudity, and the Lampoon is like Sarah Palin, bespectacled and full of hot air. Make the right choice, Harvard; choose the Indy for your humor needs.
Editors Note: Will Simmons ‘14 (wsimmons@college) evidently believes the Indy is a humor publication. Now it all makes sense…
t seems that Harvard's humor community has some uncanny similarities to the 2012 GOP field -- no one likes the Lampoon, but somehow we know it’s all we really have. There have been some Santorums and Pauls along the way (and maybe even a little Cain), hoping to make their mark and seize back their beloved comedic practices from the robotic absurdity that is the Ivory Castle. Here's to hoping they fair better than the Ricks. And much like the elections, we leave the final decisions up to you. In the spread that follows, we take a look at the comedy groups that have existed on our campus through our extensive history. We have tried to cover it all, from stand-up to sketch comedy, and from improv to clowns. Along the way, we met some of the funniest people on campus, and if you haven’t yet, we suggest you take the time off of your overly scheduled lives to go do the same. Unless of course they are no longer (in the race…here’s lookin’ at you Bachmann).
New Kid on the Block
The Indy interviews Three Letter Acronym. By YUQI HOU
2008, Three Letter Acronym (TLA) is the newest of the three improv troupes on campus (the other two being On Thin Ice and the Immediate Gratification Players). It specializes in a type of long form improv called Harold, which usually begins with an opening, such as a monologue inspired by word the audience suggests. The opening then sets the scene for the first act. The Indy caught up with the founder of TLA, Lily Karlin ‘13, an Adams House resident concentrating in creative writing, to see what inspired her to create TLA and learn more about TLA's performance at the New York Improv Festival. ormed in
Indy: What inspired you to do improv? Lily Karlin: I had done the Upright Citizens Brigade Training Program, a theater in New York that included Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh. They really brought Harold to improv. I found about it because my older sister is a comedian in New York. I started taking classes the summer after my senior year in high school, so I was going into college having had this really interesting experience. Indy: Why did you start TLA? Lily: I started it second semester last year with Blythe Robertson '13. Blythe and I had heard from some of our friends that every year after auditions, OTI and IGP turn away a lot of people, even though they are really good, so we knew there was this [group] of funny people that needed an outlet. Indy: Why did you name it TLA? Lily: We named ourselves after we cast the team. Improv team names are usually stupid but lovely. Indy: What made you want to do Harold? Lily: It's a really fun form to do and to watch. It's very difficult, so it's not like another one of the teams could do our form. You need a Harold focused team. It's also very relevant to the modern improv community as the backbone of many training programs, including the Upright Citizens Brigade. It's also a form that needs to be performed by a limited amount of people. 6
Indy: What are practices like? Lily: We rehearse twice a week. On Mondays we rehearse for two hours with a coach, who is a Harold improviser at Improv Boston. On Thursday we get together without a coach and talk about what everyone wants to work on. Indy: In March you performed at the New York Improv Festival at the People's Improv Theater. What was that like? Lily: It was a really amazing experience. Performance-wise, it's great to have the opportunity to perform outside of the Harvard community. It's a different experience performing for your friends and roommates than to perform before strangers and people who do improv and know what we're trying to do. We can get away with more on campus. Also, we got to watch the masters in action and learn from seeing them. It revived us. We saw these shows and thought 'this is magic. I want to put the work in to make this happen.' There was also a symposium with people who talked about comedy theory. Long form improv is a really young art form, so it was cool to hear about the state of it. Indy: How did you get the chance to perform in New York? Lily: We applied. Most improv festivals call for applicants, so we sent in a video of one of our shows at Harvard, and we were accepted. We were actually the only college troupe in the festival, so that was interesting. I think it's so important for college students to go because we're really at the beginning of our careers. Indy: Okay, serious question. What do you think of women in comedy? Lily: Well, TLA is half girls, half boys. For me, women are funny and men are funny, so let's all do funny things. I haven't met a lot of people who have expressed that they want to do comedy and don't. TLA is performing next on April 22nd at 8pm in Sever 103 and then on April 28th at 2:30pm at the Queen’s Head Pub. You can check them out at tlaimprov.com. Yuqi Hou '15 (hou@college) LOVES improv.
Harvard has produced many humor publications in its time, but it seems the words of Satire V are the only ones still heard above the surrealist cacophony of the Lampoon. “Holding a mirror up to truth” (think about it) since 1998, Satire V makes its living satirizing the tireless antics of our beloved alma mater, those whacky street people by the T, and the politics and popular culture of the USA. It’s really nothing new, but the material is sharp and accessible. Frankly, it’s nice to be able to read something comprehensible when otherwise constantly engaged in the Harvard culture of homogynistic synergetic diatribe (LOL?). With a format similar to The Onion, Satire V produces mock-news stories appealing to the Harvard community (“6 out of every 5 Harvard Men Gay” #tooreal). The publication was founded to diversify the voices within the comedic community and to make people who just don’t quite get the publication’s name feel stupid.
Harvard College Stand Up Comedy Society Also known as Harvard College SUCS (wow, the puns don’t end with these people), HCSUCS got its start in 2007 as the first and only stand up comedy group on campus. They have performed at the Boston Comedy Festival and many locations around Harvard, including some events especially for freshmen in the beginning of the school year. Their brand of comedy ranges from the raunchy to the rhythmic, with duets, songs, and the traditional string of penis and abortion jokes you don’t really want to laugh at. It’s live comedy, so the awkwardness of bad jokes is exponentially more awful and the smell of booze in the auditorium all the more pungent.
Class Clowns is one of those groups that would make you tear up as you watched them on the evening news. Combining the art of clowning with the good-heartedness of community service, Class Clowns’ mission is to perform traditional clowning routines – such as face painting, magic, and balloon twisting – in order to spread cheer in places such as nursing homes and hospitals. With so many community service options on campus, Class Clowns still manages to stand out: it’s a lighthearted, creative twist on PBHA. It’s not everyday you get to choose a clown name for yourself!
04.12.12 • The Harvard Independent
On Thin Ice
The Indy profiles Harvard’s oldest short form improv group. By YUQI HOU
Anyway. I was interested in how you We did a lot of shows in the black and tell jokes. Everybody could adopt different personas.” He box theater and a lot of shows on the should do this with their chose to join OTI because it was the steps of Widener. We really enjoyed friends,” says Brianne Holland- group he was the most familiar with. rehearsing together and even going Stergar '13. For Holland-Stergar, “I saw OTI for pre-frosh weekend and into Boston because of our connection being a part of On Thin Ice (OTI), a talked to them afterwards. They were to Improv Boston. Much of it was in short form improv troupe at Harvard, very approachable,” says Shindi. Cambridge. We were quite popular. is one of the most fun and relaxing There was always something about us activities she's involved with on The Indy caught up with Brigit that was really sharp and intelligent campus. Because OTI deals with short Fasolino Vucic ’85, who founded OTI and really witty.” form improv, many of its sets occur in 1983, to learn more about OTI’s as games. A member of OTI will ask start. The first performers… for an audience suggestion, such as a “We cast the most amazing group non-geographical location, and play a On how it all began... of students for the first troupe of game using that word. “I was really active in the theater OTI. Many of them went on to OTI is the oldest of all the improv and most of what we had going on have outstanding careers in the troupes on campus. It predates Instant was avant garde or classical. It was a entertainment industry; they couldn't Gratification Players (IGP) by three literary feeling. We were not exploring have been more talented, and most of years and Three Letter Acronym comedy. The idea of doing free form them were freshman.” (TLA) by 26. Next year, OTI will be celebrating its 30th anniversary. “We're going to have gross, excess, unmitigated celebration everyday for the next year” says Andrew Shindi '13, president of OTI. OTI has a lot to celebrate. Its shows, usually held in the Science Center, are hilarious. The talents of its members can also be found in the Lampoon, Hasty Pudding Theatricals, theater productions, and other improv groups. For some of its members, interest in theater lead them to join OTI. Holland-Stergar had never done improv before but was auditioning for another play in the same building. “I'd always wanted to do improv, so I auditioned,” says Matt DaSilva '12, Andrew Shindi '13, Isabel Carey '12, Rob Knoll '12, Gus Mayopoulos '15 Photo by Yuqi Hou Holland-Stergar, recalling her audition experience. “There was one other person. Three members were in comedy was very new. Somehow, I saw an audition for The initial structure… the room and they had us play a game Improv Boston. Since there wasn't a “We made up a number of things. where we had to tell a story and then troupe at Harvard, I went to audition. We would follow constructs but switch characters midway through When I auditioned, I met Ellen also played around with structure. the story. There were callbacks, which Hollbrooke, the lady who started We loved having heavy audience were very similar. It was super fun Improv Boston. She said, 'We think participation. and super relaxed.” We were an extremely collaborative Shindi got involved as another you're great but it's a rule that we don't take any students,' and she group, and we were all very close. At way to explore the performance joked, 'I wish Harvard had a troupe.' the time, I was living in Quincy and side of comedy. “I did a lot of High She was joking around, but that gave we'd come to the side dining room. School theater. I grew up watching me the idea. We were all joking around with each Marx Brothers and Whose Line is it ometimes we just sit around
The Harvard Independent • 04.12.12
other one day, trying to come up with a name, since we named ourselves after we formed. It was a cold day and there was ice on the ground. Nick Davis came up with the name. Doing improv is like being on thin ice because it is a lot of fun but you can't tell where you're going. You're always sliding around, trying to find something that works.” On being involved in the group... “When you get two people with certain tendencies it's hilarious. Doing improv is a tremendously great tool to help people think quickly on their feet. The people who were in the troupe were so bright and so funny. We were almost a little family. And we are all still friends today, which tells you something about what a positive experience [it was].” On her life now… “I put a lot of my love for theater in my work, which is related in the sense that I specialize in children's interactive media, which is publishing and animation. But I am active in theater on a small level. Some of the founding members like Chris Moore and his partner, Bill Rauch, went on to be very involved in classical theater. Bill Rauch is now the artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.” “I picked the spot that would make you most in the way of the flow of traffic,” says Andrew Shindi ’13, at the beginning of the interview. Shindi is the current president of OTI and full of dry humor. He has been involved with OTI since freshman year after seeing them perform during prefrosh weekend. During the interview, the Indy got to pick his mind about what makes him laugh, his interest in theater, and what he likes about improv.
...Continued on page 8 firstname.lastname@example.org
SPECIAL ...continued from page 7 On doing comedy… “I enjoy making people laugh. It’s great when people take a departure from the real world by using the humor of my misfortunes to transform their world. There is a very strong community in OTI. We all have strong relationships with each other. It is my creative outlet. I really like the performance aspect of comedy; it’s a fully immersive experience. The response you get when you perform is more genuine, unlike writing, which you can go back to and edit again and again.” What makes him laugh… “I really like dry humor, unexpected
ends or situations when what you believe will happen is reversed. I also like wordplay, randomness, and playing with incongruous situations more than physical humor. It’s funny to take a break from that mundane existence.” On what’s next… “My secret dream, once I make myself financially comfortable, is to pursue acting. For now, I want to be a lawyer, so I’m applying to law school. Improv really gives you the capability to think fast, makes you adaptable, and helps you collaborate with people.” “The thing about improv is if it doesn’t work out, that’s okay,” says Brianne Holland-Stergar ‘13. Her try-
it-anyway attitude got her to audition for OTI despite never having done an improv show before. She was accepted into OTI last fall, and is now one of two girls on a team of 11. Now the Indy gets to hear her thoughts on female comedians and what she’s learned from the experience. On women in comedy… “It’s way harder for women to be funny, because there’s still this idea that they should be prim and proper. When you see slapstick, crude humour, it makes people uncomfortable. It’s a lot harder for women to get away with that kind of humor. I think you need women to make things work. Men can do a penis joke, but women should be a lot more character driven.”
Her advice on doing improv… “First, people have to try. After you hear that first laugh, you’ll be fine. You just need to find your strength in comedy. Isabel is really good at playing a disinterested mom, and she can do a good hunchback. I do big characters. I do big characters partly a result of me not being quick enough to come up with something wittier. I’m a big person: I’m tall, so the physical things I do are easily seen.” On Thin Ice performs next on April 22, at 9pm in Science Center E. You can check them out at hcs.harvard. edu/oti. Yuqi Hou ’15 (hou@college) has learned that doing comedy is a self-selecting process.
On Harvard Time
Founded in 2007, On Harvard Time started off as a comedic take on current events and news at or revolving around Harvard. Taking inspiration from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, the show developed its own brand of humor. It also tried to humanize the hallowed halls of Harvard, breaking the myths that ran just as wild as the supposed ivies along its walls. As the TV show grew, they have become prominently featured on YouTube, reaching out to a global audience hungry to know more about Harvard. Since its inception, the TV show has interviewed prominent Harvard and world personalities such as the Dean of Admissions William Fitzsimmons, Stephen Pinker, Karl Rove, and Head Writer of The Simpsons, Mark Reiss. You can check them out on their YouTube channel, http://www.youtube. com/user/OnHarvardTime or on their website, http://www.onharvardtime.com.
While its modern productions are popular and its membership enthusiastic, we at the Indy long for the Hasty Pudding of the 1870’s – how much we would love a candid shot of Teddy Roosevelt in drag! While HPT got its start as an old-boys group that put Finals Clubs to shame, its modern guise is a delightfully campy showing of original Harvard theatrical work. The group is perhaps most well known for its Man and Woman of the Year Awards, which honors two entertainers who have made a mark on their industry (this year’s recipients were Claire Danes and Jason Segel). However, HPT’s primary focus is student-run theatrical productions, in which brave men of Harvard parade around with gallantry, flamboyancy, and feather boas. The performers bring drag to the mainstream, toning down the camp just enough to be tolerable to the delicate sensibilities of the general public while still delighting that indescribable love of crossdressing we all have. Their musicale 2012 is the studentwritten “There Will Be Flood,” which, disappointingly, does not seem to star a made-up Daniel Day-Lewis.
Hasty pudding theatricals 8
Respectably French is Harvard’s widely watched sketch comedy show. The show is made up of stand-alone sketches that satire anything from #harvardstrugs to the next big pop culture fad. Their brand of humor is unique. For example, their YouTube channel claims RF is for those who “like jokes and hate reading. If you hate jokes and love reading, try this tasty morsel: ‘Soil is composed of particles of broken rock that have been altered by chemical and environmental processes including weathering and erosion.’ “ Get it? Well, the best way to experience what RF is all about, check them out on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/RespectablyFrench or on their website at http://respectablyfrench.com/rfv2. 04.12.12 • The Harvard Independent
Immediate Gratification (Players)
Courtesy of IGP
I mmediate G ratification Players, otherwise known as IGP, is the second-oldest improvisational comedy troupe at Harvard, and is either the first, second, or third funniest such troupe, whether members will admit it or not. Rumored to have had its origins in Star Trek reenactments, IGP is now known for its taste in ties, work ethic, and propensity for bringing Wayne Brady to campus. The Indy spoke with current Czar Katherine Damm ’13 earlier this week. She tried to sell us her troupe’s book, “So You Think You’re Funny? A Student’s Guide to Improv Comedy”, which can be found used on Amazon for a reasonable $7.09 if you don’t mind ambiguous staining, but before we hung up in a huff, here’s what she said: he
MB: Why do you think IGP is the funniest improv troupe on campus with the funniest people on campus? KD: I thought about this one. I don’t know if we can say that we are the funniest people on campus because Harvard comedy is just so awesome and strong in general. I think I’d be more confident saying we’re the smartest, or best looking, or most well adjusted people on campus, but it’s honestly pretty hard to The Harvard Independent • 04.12.12
say we’re the funniest. MB: That’s very gracious of you. You said that IGP’s style of comedy is now long-form; do you have a particular flavor that you like to add to your comedy? KD: Long-form basically means that we’ll get one suggestion at the beginning of the show and then work off of that, moving through different scenes and stuff. We generally try to have our humor come from a real place, so grounded relationships or situations with real stakes. A lot of our scenes happen on farms or in space. MB: On farms or in space. Why is that? KD: I think it’s because one of the best ways to begin a scene is with a specificality, something that’s physical and allows you to interact with your environment, and digging is a really popular move. Or planting a flag. They look pretty similar. MB: For you, audiences are obviously pretty important in improv and are technically supposed to sort of generate the action. What does the ideal IGP audience member look like? KD: Our relationship to the audience is super important, so I guess our ideal audience member would
be like six feet tall, with an athletic build and a good waistto-hip ratio, a laid-back sense of fashion, nice eyes — dimples are a plus. MB: Dimples are always a plus. KD: Not necessary, but a plus. MB: Agreed. And this ideal member, does he or she — well, he — give you clever suggestions, things that you’ve never done before, or does he stick to the basics and let you do what you do best? KD: He probably sticks to the basics. I think most improvers would agree that it’s hard when the audience is also doing comedy. Our best suggestions, since we work off of one word, are usually words that have multiple meanings. One of my favorite shows that we did was “train”, because there’s the actual train, and then you can train for things. Someone made a pun with “to rain”, it looks like it’s about “to rain”. Stuff that allows us to do a pun with just one word are the best kinds of suggestions. MB: So I know that you guys have themed shows every once in a while; your most recent one was Bananas Everywhere. Is there a method to that?
KD: Generally our themed shows are our yearly festivals where we invite improv troupes from around the nation. This year was, I think, our 14th Laugh Riot Festival ( it was ). It’s usually just a way of advertising the show; it doesn’t really affect our improv. But this year we chose our show Bananas Everywhere, (1) because it was a party that we want to have at some point, and (2) we were raising awareness about our cage-free banana initiative. Harvard’s bananas are not actually cage-free, which was really surprising to us. We were just trying to raise a little awareness about it, but we don’t actually know how successful it was because HUDS has not responded to anything. MB: That’s rough. I mean I know that the admixture of comedy and philanthropy is not always successful…What do you think has been IGP’s greatest achievement, either in your time or outside of that? KD: We think, probably, getting into Harvard. Everyone was really proud of us when that happened. Meghan Brooks ’14 (meghanbrooks@college) has never been prouder. email@example.com
This Is Not a Game Why everyone should give Radio Music Society a listen. By WHITNEY LEE
arely, in the age of mp3
downloads and Spotify, does the concept of the album, unified by a single concept or set of concepts, make an appearance, but Radio Music Society is one such album. Gone were the days when artists would create whole albums, with quality songs from beginning to end, gone that is until Esperanza Spalding arrived on the scene in 2006 and returned in 2011 with Chamber Music Society, for which she took home a Grammy. As the first jazz artist to win a Grammy, expectations were understandably high, but as usual, she fails to disappoint. Her latest album, Radio Music Society is likewise exciting and is perhaps her best work yet. It is the sort of album that makes one want to listen to the whole thing start to finish, multiple times. “Crowned and Kissed” is my favorite song on the album. I know that this is highly prejudicial, but I truly love this song. It’s about a relationship between a man and a woman in which the man has been carrying the weight of the world, of the expectations heaped upon him and his responsibilities as the head of the household and his mate entreats him to lay his burdens down and allow her to shoulder some of his burden. The lyrics read, “I know even the strongest man needs/ Someone to hold him/Once you, carry the weight on the shoulder/And you, made a way for the future/Lay your burdens down/Don't even make a sound, don't worry about a thing/I'm here to love you/My kisses are your crown and I'm your queen/So now leave with me my king/I'm here to love you” This song is evocative in that it calls to mind images of ancient kings, who, by day, would be out at battle and by night, would return home to find comfort in the arms of their wives. In this song, Esperanza really creates a
moving image of a strong woman who understands that even the strongest man needs someone to hold him.” “Smile Like That” is one of the most easily relatable songs on the album, because it is about an experience shared by all women, regardless of race and social class. In “Smile Like That”, Spalding sings about a woman noticing that another woman makes her man smile and she wonders how she can make him smile like that. This is perhaps the only song on the album that can be described as cute, the others evoking words like power, strength and pride. The beauty of “Black Gold” lies in its social message about the worth of blacks in American society. The message Spalding conveys in this song is one of pride – as she advises people to hold their heads high regardless of the situation and remember that they are descendants of African queens and kings, ancient men, powerful men, builders of civilizations. The video that was made for this song is, if possible, even better than the song itself, because it plays out a story of an educated black man, a strong loving father, who realizes that his two sons are not being taught any of their history in school and then takes it upon himself to teach his sons about the contributions that blacks have made to society and introduce them to figures such as Sundiata Keita, Miriam Makeba, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu so that they understand the richness of their heritage. Spalding uses “Land of the Free” to raise awareness of the injustices in our justice system. Spalding does this by discussing the oft forgotten case of Cornelius Dupree who spent who was declared innocent of a 1980 conviction for aggravated robbery, which was alleged to have been committed during a rape in 1979. He had been paroled
in July 2010, after serving 30 years of a 75-year prison sentence in Texas. Prosecutors cleared him of the crime after DNA testing proved that he had not committed the crime. Spalding sings, “Finally, they’ve exonerated Dupree but it cost him his parents and his wife, his home his life, in the “land of the free” – evidently five fifths and innocent man but the courts only saw three. He spent eleven thousand days locked away in the “land of the free”. In saying this, she calls attention to the stark contrast between the fact that America is considered, or at least was considered, the “land of the free” and yet the American justice system is not infallible, occasionally sending innocent people to jail for decades.“Vague Suspicions”, like “Land of the Free” is also a political song, “Vague Suspicions” is about a Muslim man gunned down in the prime of his life because of “vague suspicions” stemming from the way he was dressed and the fact that he was kneeling by the side of the road to pray. This song is powerful in that Spalding makes a bold statement about the civilian causalities of war. Saying that they are “strangers with the same God”, Spalding brings the reality that people all around the world die as a result of wars that may have very little to do with the actions of the individuals themselves. She sings “They are faceless numbers in the headlines we've all read/wrong strike leaves the teen civilians dead”. “Radio Song”, the album’s titular song, is about a song that can sing to your soul, capable of uplifting you in times of darkness, a song you can’t help singing even if you don’t know the words. Spalding sings of a song that is “played to lift your spirits” and “words are speaking to you, as if they knew you” and claims that “this song’s the one.” Indeed it is. “Cinnamon Tree” is a song about
the earth, celebrating the beauty of cinnamon trees. This is perhaps the most poetic song on the album. This song has the quality of a playful love poem with lyrics, “I just think of one sterling conversation/with you and my cup is filled with new infusion/ And like you honesty/ In the all the sweet and chatter/Your taste, real prospective/ Aha, you give all that you are/And just keep on growing, your fragrance lives/ In all who love you/ Cinnamon tree”, Powerful. Beautiful. Moving. These are words that keep reappearing when describing Radio Music Society, it is rumored that before deciding on Radio Music Society for the album’s title, she toyed with the idea of calling it “This Is Not a Game”, because of the fact that her songs carry the weight of the issues she is addressing. Each of these songs inspired by something real to her and yet something magically relatable to all people, whether the song is about having pride in yourself, about falling in love with someone, or simply about a social issue, her songs are actually relevant and that makes them all the more special. The albums is also accompanied by eleven conceptual videos shot in different parts of the world, including New York, Portland and Barcelona. Each one of the eleven short films further express Esperanza’s inspiration and story behind each track. In addition to being multitalented, both classically trained in the cello and capable of singing in English, Spanish and Portuguese, Spalding is also a modern-day Black American griot, sharing powerful stories through her music. Whitney Lee ’14 (whitneylee@college) believes that this may be one of the most beautiful albums in existence.
04.12.12 • The Harvard Independent
Sports Bloopers, Blunders and Fails
A rundown of low points in sports in no particular order. By MICHAEL ALTMAN 1. Tiger Woods’ Club Kicking Despite his fame for being one of the greatest golfers of all time, Tiger Woods has been riding the fail-train to Loserville ever since his sex scandal broke out in 2009. Woods’ terrible performance at the 2012 Masters at Augusta National (he finished five over par) has only made matters worse. On the sixteenth hole, Woods sent his ball around 40 yards offline with a nine iron. He then proceeded to throw the club to the ground and kicked it toward the gallery. Once known for his unbreakable calm, Tiger has shown that he too can lose his cool. For his childish temper tantrum, Tiger makes the list of blunders.
locked up, leaving almost a dozen bikes in a van was not the best of ideas, especially in crime-ridden New Haven. This sports blooper proves that some stereotypes exist for a reason. 3. Marion Barber’s Backflip During a loss to the Denver Broncos, Chicago
or at least tried to do so. Barber failed to do a full flip and ended up landing on his face in a hilarious touchdown dance fail. 4. Coastal Carolina Golf Coach David Bennett Wants Players To Be Dogs…or Something David Bennett, former coach of the Coastal Carolina g o l f
2. Harvard Cycling Team Bikes are Stolen Of the innumerable reasons Fair Harvard is superior to Yale, one is that New Haven is a dangerous city. The Wall St. Journal ranked it number four on a list of the most dangerous cities in America, saying “New Haven has historically had the highest rate of violent crime on the east coast,” in addition to “the eighthhighest rate of robbery” in the U.S. While the Harvard Cycling team was staying in West Haven, a city adjacent to New Haven, their van was broken into and eleven racing bikes were stolen. Although the bikes were
The Harvard Independent • 04.12.12
Bears r u n ning back M a r i o n Barber made a touchdown for his team. Despite this, Barber was arguably responsible for his team’s loss. However, that’s not why he’s on this list. During his touchdown celebration, Barber did a backflip—
team, gave a confusing, if not entertaining, speech during a press cons ference in Septemon m ber 2011. He attempts m o iC ik to make metaphor about W of how his team should be agy es rt gressive, like dogs, but instead u o C rambles about cats sneaking in the house through screen doors and being chased around. The press con-
ference is made even more hilarious via Bennett’s cat meows, dog barks and wild gesticulations. For the full experience, the video can be seen on YouTube. Bennett’s wild metaphors must have been lost on his team as well, because he was later fired in December. 5. Harvard-Yale 2011 At the 128th meeting of Harvard and Yale football for The Game, the Crimson finished with a decisive victory, 45-7, over their rival Bulldogs. Although Harvard was undefeated within the Ivy League and had already clinched the conference championship, no one could have expected the blowout that occurred. To make matters worse, Yale quarterback Patrick Witt had withdrawn his application to be a Rhodes scholar in order to play with his team (his interview was on the same day as The Game). Witt’s performance was terrible: he threw several interceptions and was eventually benched. On a tragic, serious note, a woman was killed in an accident involving a U-Haul truck at a tailgate in one of the Yale Bowl parking lots. This sad occurrence combined with a devastating loss made this truly a low point for Yale. Michael Altman '14 (maltman@college) is just glad he didn't make this list.
captured & shot By MIRANDA SHUGARS
Published on Apr 12, 2012
This week, the Indy covers comedy on Harvard's campus. From improv to stand-up, and from bad jokes to worse puns, we've covered it all. Feat...