NYU’s latest comedy troupe is arguably the most hilarious and talented group of comedic minds on campus — yet not a single coherent conversation takes place in any of their sketches. This is because the troupe’s humor is entirely physical. The group is collectively known as the NYU Athletes.
Before taking the stage, the young comedians dressed up in highly elaborate costumes. For this particular sketch, the outfit called for kneecaps, heavy gloves and cage-like helmets. The group hoisted snowpants up to their waists and placed mouth guards between their lips. Finally, the team laced up the most important component of the skit: ice skates.
The 34 student comedians descended onto the icy stage and began the wordless, hour-long sketch. Students brandished hockey stick-shaped props with professional-caliber ability, as if they were hockey players. They also fell down a lot, in repeated acts of self-sacrificial carnal comedy. Occasionally, they would coordinate to crash into each other and tumble onto the hilariously slippery ice. This level of physical dedication to comedy has been unmet since Charlie Chaplin.
The sole apparent objective of the entire sketch was to move a small, nearly invisible disc into a net — past another comic’s feet when he wasn’t prepared — as many times as possible. When this happened, raucous noises were emitted. Often, the comics would raise L-shaped sticks in ironically primal humor.
When asked about what inspired this sketch, Paul Shawty, CAS junior and stuntsman comedian, chose to keep up his method acting, which emphasized how closely he identifies with his craft.
“Hey, I think you’re confused,” Shawty said. “We’re not a comedy troupe, we are the men’s hockey team.”
The group of comedians in the following bit was a bit sharper. This team dressed up in chic prototypes of straightjackets and grasped flimsy swords while wearing beekeepers’ masks. The very presentation was a work of comedic genius. The Fencers, as they are known around campus, pretended that they wanted to stab each other to death. This continued for an hour, but the back-and-forth was so lively that it kept the audience engaged the whole time. Once one party was successfully “stabbed,” he would remove his mask and shake the other’s hand, which was so hilarious — he was shaking the hand of the guy who just tried to kill him.
The lead Fencer, Arnold Friend, acknowledged the larger themes at play in the Fencers’ work.
“This is serious,” Friend said. “This is a serious sport. We wear these helmets for protection so our faces don’t get sliced. What did you think these helmets were for?”
Comedy, after all, is a social commentary on global issues. The meta approach Friend took is indicative of the mask all comedians wear when they perform.
The next group was, like NYU’s Bechdel Test, all-female. They call themselves the Softballs. This was a refreshing take on the male-dominated comedy industry, which often shuts out females due to intrinsically misogynistic systems. Softball, though quite similar to their male counterparts the Baseballs, is far cleaner. For one thing, the Softballs did not find the need to expel saliva to express comedic timing. Use of props was also skilled — all these comics have studied athletic movement so well, it was difficult to tell whether they were funny athletes or athletic comedians.
“We are athletes,” Bianca Lorenzo, CAS sophomore and Softballer, said. “We are definitely athletes, and not a comedy troupe called the Softballs. We are NYU’s softball team.”
Comedy is so refreshingly open to interpretation. With the emergence of a new generation of comedians on NYU’s campus, it is inspiring to see a non-verbal, entirely physical approach enter the realm. It harkens back to the days of silent comedy, but on a much more massive scale. The athletes’ dedication to authentic props, protective costumes and gym-based locations place comedy in a different dimension of hilarity. In the future, we can expect to see these talented students in their own sitcom on ESPN.
Email Aud Del Rey at [email protected] This report has been a part of our special April 1 parody coverage. Check back next week when we get back to business.