GW, like most big universities, has famous alumni – politicians, diplomats, journalists and, lately, basketball players. But standup comedians?
Recess, GW’s standup comedy troupe, has proven to be a launching point for many aspiring comedians. Former member TJ Williams has become an established comedian, and has appeared on Comedy Central – and in an oatmeal commercial, current Recess members said. Some of the group’s performers have gone on to join Second City, a comedy group that produced John Belushi and Steven Colbert. Recess alumna Hillary Winston became a writer for the recent NBC hit television show “My Name is Earl.”
“Hollywood people are weird,” quipped junior Ben Delman, a Recess member.
Weird or not, 20 other Recess alumni spanning the past 15 years will be returning to D.C. this Friday to perform sketches in an anniversary show.
The group grew as an offshoot of Generic Theater, when several members of the performing arts group came up with the idea of the No Time Players, GW’s first improv-sketch comedy troupe. Upon graduation, three of the four members headed off to New York City to perform as a group. Meanwhile, back at GW, Recess was born.
“They took the name (Recess) with them to pursue fame and fortune and failed miserably,” said junior Chris Singel, vice president of Recess. “We kept the name and did well.”
The group is a successful one – member Jesse Baltes recently appeared on the front page of The Washington Post’s Sunday Source after winning second place in a D.C. Improv standup comedy contest. The first place guy disappeared to Texas or something, he said.
Success comes at a cost, though. Recess members recently had to attend a conflict resolution session after one of their posters offended a GW student. They refused to apologize for the poster, which contained images of the Dalai Lama and a very buxom Dolly Parton, choosing to stand up for all that they believe is funny.
“We entertain thousands of people a year and piss off several. It’s a risk we’re willing to take,” Singel said.
They’re living up to the legacy left them by past incarnations of Recess, and aren’t afraid to be politically incorrect from time to time – although they say they’ve tamed their material in recent years. TJ Williams still gets comments about one particularly inflammatory sketch the group performed at a festival, Singel said.
“Recess is known around the country, sadly,” he said. And they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Recess’ 15th anniversary show is at Betts Theater in the Marvin Center this Friday at midnight.