The recent success of two USC alumni, Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney, has brought the world of improvisational comedy at USC into the spotlight.
During their time at USC, Bennett and Mooney were members of Commedus Interruptus, an improvisational theater and sketch comedy group that performs free shows on campus. Bennett and Mooney are two of the newest performers to join the cast of Saturday Night Live. The casting was announced on Sept. 16, and the pair appeared in their first show on Sept. 28.
“I was really excited because I knew [their casting] was going to bring a lot of attention to Commedus. I think it was about time because we haven’t gotten a lot of support in the past,” said Michael Sturgis, a member of the group and a sophomore majoring in psychology and theater.
Besides free performances in front of Tommy Trojan on Fridays, Commedus Interruptus also hosts events at Ground Zero Performance Café and Bovard Auditorium.
Members of the group were excited to hear that two of their alumni had been cast in such a well-known television show.
“It was fantastic to hear that Kyle and Beck made it onto the cast,” said Frank Gullihur, a junior majoring in theater. “I immediately told everyone I knew. Here are two people that are in the same troupe as me, and now they’re on SNL!”
Joining Commedus Interruptus is a competitive process. There are multiple rounds of auditions, as well as a six-week-long workshop.
Gullihur noted how auditions are typically teeming with enthusiastic prospective performers — nearly 80 to 100 people audition each year.
Currently, the troupe consists of seven cast members.
Paul Stanko, a graduate of the theater program, remembered the intensity of the tryouts.
“I auditioned as a freshman. I didn’t even make it to callbacks,” Stanko said. “My improv was weak, and I really had no idea what I was doing.”
Stanko said he took the initial rejection as an impetus to improve.
“I took my freshman year to really polish up my improvisational skills, gained a new appreciation for the art behind what Commedus was doing, and went back guns blazing sophomore year,” Stanko said. “Somehow, I tricked them into taking me.”
Richy Storrs, a junior majoring in theater, said Bennett and Mooney’s success will inspire the USC entertainment community.
“It gives us hope for our own future as writers and actors, especially since a lot of their sketch ideas came from original ideas they had come up with for the biannual Commedus Sketch Show,” Storr said. “What Beck and Kyle are doing is definitely something that I am currently aiming for: to bring joy and humor to as large an audience as possible.”
Bennett and Mooney aren’t the first ones to make it big after their time with Commedus Interruptus. Jason Reitman, who has directed films such as Juno and Thank You for Smoking, was also a member of the troupe.
According to Stanko, this success is not as much about the snappy jokes as it is about the amount of time and energy invested into the craft.
“If you love something enough, and you throw yourself into that, you can get to the top of the game. Kyle and Beck did just that,” Stanko said. “They loved comedy and they kept at it, and now they’re in the big leagues. Anyone can get there; it’s just a matter of work ethic.”
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