You're a Funny School, Columbia U.

The 2003-2004 year was a raucous and exciting time for Columbia University. The University was sued by large drug companies over false patents, political groups were getting riled up over the coming presidential elections, and Columbia's performing arts circle gave birth to not one, not two, not three, but four comedy groups. With so many arising so quickly, it's hard to distinguish one from the other. Here, for the first time, for your reference, is the as-definitive-as-it-gets guide to Columbia's comedy groups:

Fruit Paunch

Admittedly, Fruit Paunch is more understated than the other campus comedy groups, despite a name which is delicious and has the tendency to be spiked. "We don't give piggy-back rides or high-fives, but it's not through lack of enthusiasm-we're just more understated and ironic," explains Philippa Ainsley, CC '07, about the performance style of Fruit Paunch. "In general, we're drier than the other groups." Though Fruit Paunch emerged roughly at the same time as the others, it's the oldest comedy group on campus by association. Fruit Paunch was formed by a combination of the two pre-existing comedy groups on campus, Six Milks and Two Left Feet. The group's current leader, Addison Anderson, CC '07, elaborates: "Both groups lost a lot of graduating seniors. One group was only left with two people, but they were all good friends, so they decided to just join together." And history was made. The group's improv style is "medium-form improvisation ... or focused long-form," explains Ainsley. And there are plenty of chances to see the Paunch perform. "We try to do one big show about every three weeks," says Anderson. Look forward to Fruit Paunch's legendary24-hour improvisation show in April. They might want to spike the Paunch with Red Bull for that one.

Chowdah

It's neither soup nor improv. Unlike its comic brethren, Chowdah specializes in rehearsed sketch comedy. This group bloomed in the spring of 2004, premiering off-campus at the West End bar. It was founded by three then-sophomores, Matthew Wilstein, CC '06, David Berbitsky, CC '06, and Uri Weg, SEAS '06, who were fans of sketch comedy like Saturday Night Live. To date, Chowdah is the only comedy group with a fully functional and updated Web site, www.columbia.edu/cu/chowdah. (Fruit Paunch's simple "Somebody owes me $20" leaves more than a few questions unanswered). In contrast to other groups on campus, all of Chowdah's material is entirely student-written, so good writers are just as important to the group, if not more important, than good actors. Because of the more in-depth nature of its comedy, Chowdah doesn't enjoy as much performance time as the other groups. "We put on one or two shows in a semester," explains the group's director, Shira Danan, CC '07. Don't miss Chowdah's spring show in the Black Box, Feb. 16-18. Let's face it, after almost 30 years, Saturday Night Live is getting tired. And Chowdah, in only its third year, has everything they've got, except for a cast of former child stars and a permanent place in NBC's lineup.

Klaritin

You're not dyslexic. We're not talking about allergy medicine. Klaritin is a new comedy group dedicated to long-form improvisation, a style of improvisation in which performers improvise scenes that progress with interconnected plotlines, themes, and characters. Sheena Shirakhon, BC '08, one of the group's "fearless leaders" comments: "We're pretty new. We've only been around for three years, and we're enjoying making long-form improvisation available." Klaritin also performs contemporary scripted comedies and even some dramatic pieces. The group first came into the public eye when it put together a production of a collection of student-written plays called "Monitored." Klaritin adopts an egalitarian leadership and rehearsal style. According to Shira Danan: "Klaritin is more about even stage time than Chowdah is. ... Klaritin really is a troupe in a true sense." Klaritin does have a bit of ease in doing collaborative work with Chowdah, as there is some crossover membership between the two. In fact, Danan herself is also a member of Klaritin. Don't miss Klaritin's upcoming performance at Glass House Rocks. Side-effects may include dizziness, light-headedness, and side-splitting.

Tea Party

Green, peppermint, English breakfast, and chamomile all had a party, and we weren't invited. Tea Party is a musical improv troupe which entered the scene last year, wowing fans with musical renditions of improv games, including "electrons" and who-dun-it mysteries. The group owes its cult following to a special Brokeback Mountain-themed show, which cemented its actors' quirky personalities-and lack of shame. Mainly comprised of Varsity Show alums, Tea Party was founded by Ted Malawer, CC '06, Dan Kessler, CC '06, Kate Berthold, CC '06, and continues to be run by campus theater overachievers Nessa Norich, CC '08, and Mark Junek, CC '07 and president of Columbia University Performing Arts League. Because Norich is abroad this semester, it seems this Party will be running dry-maybe giving Fruit Paunch the lead in quenching our comedy thirst.

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