Battle of the funnies with Dog Day and Casual Thursday

by Alison Hagen | 1/25/17 2:25am

While you may have seen Dartmouth’s two improv groups, Dog Day Players or Casual Thursday, perform at a fraternity or campus event, you have not seen them like this before. With constant laughs in between, Dog Day members Walker Schneider ’19, Andres Smith ’17 and Brooke Bazarian ’20 sat down with Casual Thursday members Lily Eisner ’18 and Simon Ellis ’20 to discuss the differences between the groups and their shared love of improv.

What is the history of your groups? How old are they?

WS: Older than you.

AS: We were a group called Said and Done for a while and then I think we became Dog Day like the late 90s?

WS: I thought ’94. That could be arbitrary.

AS: I mean I’m not 100 percent sure but pretty old.

LE: I think that Casual Thursday was created in 2001 and it’s called Casual Thursday because that’s the name they all hated the least. As the story goes, so there you go.

Why is Dog Day called Dog Day?

WS: Because every dog has its day.

AS: Is that why?

BB: That is the phrase that it’s based on.

AS: Well, it’s the Dog Day Players.

WS: [interjects] So it turns out everyone in comedy on campus has severe ADD.

LE: I don’t think that was a mystery. I think we all knew that — that’s not breaking news. That’s something we talk about in Casual Thursday a lot — what made you funny.

AS: Trauma…

LE: Like what happened to you in your life that made you funny. Like one friend was really fat as a kid. And no one would think he was cool unless he was funny.

How would you describe your group in a few words?

LE: Um, white, cis, male.

WS: Surprisingly Cuban.

LE: Oh we used to be 50 percent Jewish.

SE: Realistically, we are short form improv.

Why did you decide to join your group and why did you decide to pick that one over the other?

WS: I was walking back from lacrosse team tryouts, thinking I wasn’t going to make it. And then I just happened to go on the path to my dorm and it was right past Carson Hall where a ’16 was standing outside of the sign that said “Dog Day Auditions, come inside!” I said, “Hey, am I too late?” — he goes, “No, come on in!” And then I came on in, and the rest is history.

AS: So I had never done any kind of performance before and my roommate, whose older brother was in the group as well, convinced me to go to the improv workshop with him. I just had a ton of fun and really hit it off with a lot of the people in both groups. As far as the choosing thing went, I originally had chosen Casual Thursday on my audition sheet, but then I went to both auditions and I did a lot better at the Dog Day one. So the last second I switched it because I had a better chance of getting into that one.

LE: I had a similar experience to Andres where I went to the workshop in the beginning and there was a ’15 named Deby [Guzman-Buchness], literally my idol. She was the president of Casual Thursday my freshman year. She was just like a really strong, smart, cool, talented woman. And that’s a person I really looked up to. And so I think Casual Thursday was an easy choice for me just because I had that person as my role model. I think it’s been a really supportive and good place for me, as a woman I on campus.

SE: I saw Lily in a performance last spring term when I came to visit and I was like “Damn her — I need to be better than her.” Okay no actually, my friend wanted to audition for both groups and she ended up doing that this year and not getting into either one. And then one day she was like, “The first one didn’t go well,” when she auditioned for Dog Day, and then she was like, “Well why don’t you come with me to the next one?” and I was like, “Okay!” Then I went and I guess it went well and I was like, “I could see myself doing this.”

What is your group’s biggest weakness?

SE and LE: Diversity.

LE: On a really serious note, I’m basically the only woman this term and everybody else is a white male. Problematic.

AS: It’s definitely an issue. It’s very tough too because in the audition pool, it’s, “Who are the kids that did improv in high school?” Like, the white kids from Connecticut.

SE: It’s also the general Dartmouth community, being majority white male. Coming to college I can say it feels way more comfortable and I felt easier being funny. When you have week one auditions, and you’re coming here, if you don’t feel represented on campus as a whole, it’s hard to go into a place like that and be like, “Oh, I need to be representative of who I am as a person, and be funny.”

AS: And, imagine walking into that audition too and seeing like, “Oh look, the whole group is here…”

BB: Everyone’s white.

LE: So I was good friends with a ’16 who is Asian and she told me that she decided her freshman year not to try out for any improv groups because she thought improv was a particularly white form of comedy. Which is honestly a sad way to feel about it, but given the way our groups look, it’s not that far from the truth. That’s definitely something that the next few months and next year I hope to work to overcome. It is a problem; it’s a problem I see in a lot of places.

WS: Switching tracks a little bit, I think comedically speaking, our greatest weakness as a group is probably the fact that we don’t remain grounded all the time. The best comedy comes from real life situations that tend to be somewhat relatable or at least start on a very normal note and then progress outwards. And our group will sometimes start a scene with like “Oh look, I have spoons for hands!” and that’s funny, but it’s not the highest quality of comedy.

SE: We’re also trying to go back to the basics of improv because we can get really bad in escalation, where scenes just like have to be stopped because there’s just no point.

LE: Just to tie the first thing we were talking about, diversity, and comedy together, as a weakness that I think we struggle with particularly is like when so many people are of the same demographic, their comedy tends to be very similar. A lot of people are coming from the same point of view, you’re getting a lot of the same kinds of jokes all the time.

If your group had a Tinder page, what would the bio be?

AS: Something obnoxious.

BB: Yeah, something regrettable.

WS: We’re more of a Bumble type of group.

AS: Like imagine a bumper sticker that a mom who thought she was really hip would have, and that would be like the joke in our profile.

LE: We’re catfishing people.

What do you think is the funniest thing about Dartmouth?

WS: The lacrosse team.

BB: I think I found that, since I’m fresh off the college process, Dartmouth is a funnier school than other schools. I just think that it has a sense of humor.

SE: There’s just so many things that happen here that couldn’t happen anywhere else. I feel like it’s such a work hard, play hard kind of place that people feel the need to be funny and do these outrageous or absurd things because it’s such a stressful environment.

Why do you love what you do in your group?

BB: I love it because I’m obsessed with it ... I really almost treat it like a fourth class in a way and I’m interested in it enough that it keeps it fresh for me. I like doing my own research on it and watching other people do improv so much that I try to keep it from being lackluster, or keep it from just being another activity that I have to go to. Improv is very difficult to do when it just feels like a chore, so it’s really fun when I try to think of it in that way.

WS: Up until like six hours ago, I was an athlete as well, and I’ve been an athlete since literally the seventh grade. I always was really sports and academics focused and I always wanted to pursue this creative side, and I never had the opportunity to really do so until coming to Dartmouth. It’s really allowed me to flush out a side of myself that I just hadn’t had the opportunity to beforehand. I’ve loved exploring this new side of myself and I’ve really enjoyed it.

AS: I come from a family where it’s kind of a classic family of immigrants thing, you have to work hard always and performance is weird and dumb. I had never ever done any performance and I always secretly really wanted to do it. It became a form of therapy for me that I never had outside of like actual therapy.

SE: We performed the night before the election in a frat and it was super solemn when we first walked in. Just to be able to take people away for a second from the situation they’re in and try to make them laugh is one of the reasons I still do it.

LE: I think that what makes improv, speaking from my experience, worth it for me, is I’m a freak show, I’m a crazy person. But coming to Dartmouth and finding a group of people that just want to be weird, is so awesome. People that just love that I’m weird, and are weird right back, like that’s cool.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

Smith is a former member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff.

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