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The past few years have been something of a golden age for television sketch comedy. The long-running NBC juggernaut Saturday Night Live aside, smaller sketch-based shows like Key & Peele, Whitest Kids U’ Know, Inside Amy Schumer, and Portlandia have all found audiences drawn to the genre.
Now, BUTV10 is following suit with its newest comedy series, Pals & Friends. While the station has long produced comedy shows, including sitcoms Welcome Back Brotter and Co-Ed: The Next Generation and the morning news show parody The Morning After, Pals & Friends is BUTV10’s only sketch comedy show. Produced, written, edited, and performed entirely by students, it debuted late last month. Episode two airs tonight at 8 p.m.
Dale Mason (COM’15), Annie Melden (COM’16), and Jillian Richardson (COM’15) began developing the show in February 2014. Since then, nearly 50 people have been involved, either as cast members, crew members, writers, or a combination of the three. Many of the show’s writers and cast members are comedy veterans, having worked previously with various comedy groups on campus, including the Callbacks, Liquid Fun, Sons of Liberty, and Slow Children at Play.
Pals & Friends’ executive producer Mason says that collaboration among comedians of such different backgrounds helps to produce energetic and entertaining sketches that appeal to fans of all comedic genres. “Each cast member brings their own set of skills to the table, and that makes it a really fun and interesting acting experience,” he says. “I think that comedy in general is a family. These groups on campus aren’t fighting each other for who is best; they all want to learn and have a good time. Comedy is about making that community, being friendly, and helping each other achieve goals.”
In fact, the name of the show was inspired by the bonds that developed among the staff. “We started with a lot of friends who were interested in working on or being on the show,” Mason says. “The people we brought into the production quickly became family and now pals and friends truly defines the group we work with.”
The first season of Pals & Friends is almost entirely dedicated to parodying television. The pilot features a mock newscast, complete with two incompetent, bickering anchors, a recently jilted man-on-the-street reporter interviewing couples about their relationships, and an investigative reporter exploring the consequences of holding up the line at a local fast food restaurant.
Tonight’s episode is a send-up of PBS, with parodies of familiar public television series like Zoom, Zaboomafoo, and The Joy of Painting. The third episode, slated to air next Monday, April 27, spoofs reality television and contains a sketch titled “America’s Next Top Hand Model” and a parody of the popular History Channel series Pawn Stars, which was shot on location in Market Square Exchange and Emporium, an actual pawnshop in Lynn, Mass.
Producer, writer, and cast member Jack Wall (COM’15) says that while it’s expected that the show’s focus will expand next year, this season’s emphasis on television adds something new to the well-saturated sketch comedy genre. “I personally have never seen a sketch show dedicated to parodying the medium that it’s presented on,” he says. “I think taking the angle of making fun of television is, in a way, our niche.”
Each 10-minute episode can take nearly two months to produce, says Mason, because of the difficulty in coordinating the schedules of such a large group. Despite the long hours, working on Pals & Friends has been an invaluable professional experience for the writers, cast, and crew. “One of the things that I love most about BU is that the school lets you work on a television show with sets and equipment that are on par with those professionals would use,” Richardson says. “Writing a high-quality sketch that’s put on film and is part of an established TV show is pretty much every college comedian’s dream. We all get credits that we can put on our resume, and clips that we can put in reels. Essentially, we get to say, look, I made something, and it looks nice. And it was shown on TV!”
When it comes to the group’s audience, Wall says he hopes the show makes BU students laugh and momentarily forget the daily stresses of college life. “I’ve always thought comedy is a way of taking a break from how dramatic and heavy and unnecessarily dark life can sometimes seem as a college student,” he says. “I just hope that it’s a nice break for some people.”
The second episode of Pals & Friends airs tonight at 8 p.m. and the third airs next Monday, April 27, at 8 p.m. on BUTV10. Watch episodes anytime online at the BUTV10 website and on the Pals & Friends YouTube channel.
Watch the series’ first episode here.
Samantha Pickette can be reached at email@example.com.