Alumni return to their receSs comedic roots

As a group of campus jesters cracked jokes about life in the future, one comedic trio was reliving the past.

Mike Duffy, a comedy troupe composed of alumni Travis Helwig, Kevin Mead and Darren Miller, returned Saturday to the Marvin Center for Guest Fest, a night of improvisational and sketch comedy presented by improv comedy group receSs.

Mike Duffy, a group named after “the strangest guy I’ve ever met,” said Helwig, was founded through the trio’s involvement with receSs during their time at GW.

“It feels, in a lot of ways, like a homecoming. In a lot of ways, a college comedy group can’t ever be recreated,” Helwig said. “It breeds the [type of] friendship that you can’t really recreate. That’s what connected Kevin, Darren and I.”

The group utilized the Guest Fest setting to preview an upcoming sketch-comedy pilot, “Lonely People,” which they will submit to Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, a New York City improvisational theater co-founded by comedian and Saturday Night Live star Amy Poehler.

The comedic trio presented a series of excerpts from their pilot. Skits ranged from newscasters delivering stories solely using the word “meow” in various dramatic inflections, to a long-form satirical drama centering around one chef’s dilemma over scallion pancakes.

“The audience we can get [at GW] of people who are appreciative of what we do and who want to see the show is something you don’t experience often when you’re doing it professionally,” Miller said.

Mead noted the comfort of returning to his comedic origins after delving into the realm of professional stand-up.

“[At GW], we were performing regularly to a friendly and accepting audience,” Mead said. “Moving out to New York, you’re just kind of a small fish in the biggest pond that you can find in comedy.”

Guest Fest also featured performances by New York University improv groups Hammerkatz and Dangerbox, as well as Lazyprov, the brainchild of receSs alumni Kabeer Parwani and Sam Fox-Hartin.

The performance culminated in receSs presenting a theatrical and satirical global warming public service announcement, featuring patriotic bathing suits, a zealous Abraham Lincoln and the blaring of “God Bless America,” which Helwig belted from the front of the stage while adorned in sparkly red, white and blue streamers.

“Without sounding too lame, performing at GW is some of the most fun I’ve ever had, and has especially formulated the type of comedian I want to be,” said Helwig.

Maintaining a presence on campus since 1990, receSs boasts a legacy of successful alumni, including David Angelo, a writer for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” which was nominated for a 2011 Emmy for oustanding writing for a variety, music or comedy series, and T.J. Miller, who was named one of Entertainment Weekly’s 2008 12 Rising Stars of Comedy.

“[Helwig, Mead and I] all took receSs very seriously while we were there,” said Miller. “This was how we decided how to approach being in college. [receSs] came before academics pretty much. So this performance will be special.”

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