The Fall semester is upon us, which means students will soon find themselves deep in the throngs of tedious lectures, enraging assignments and horrific all-nighters. Fortunately for all, The Suspenders, USC’s premier sketch comedy troupe, will be around to provide some relief — comic relief that is.
The Suspenders, founded in Spring 2014 by alumni Mark Rozenweig and Dom Bournes, does not do improv. Though often confused as such, sketch comedy is a form of scripted comedy in which performers act out a series of short pre-written sketches on stage, the prime example being NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
The troupe primarily spends its time preparing its own sketch comedy show performed at the end of each semester. In previous years, the show was performed at USC’s Massman Theater with themes ranging from “Debauchery Drive” — a parody of “Sesame Street” — to an “Awkward Prom Night.”
Preparation for the show begins with writing. According to Evan Macedo, the artistic director of the troupe, writing workshops are held twice a week for nearly half the semester. During this phase, writers and performers brainstorm sketch ideas, ranging from open mics in East Berlin to tone-deaf USC students. After multiple rounds of table reads, sketches are finally selected and rehearsals begin.
Macedo, a senior majoring in theater, auditioned for The Suspenders during his first semester at USC. After performing with the troupe for a couple of years, he eventually rose to his current position, where he runs rehearsals and directs sketches.
“[The best part is] getting to help someone’s sketch come to fruition and make it as good as possible,” Macedo said. “Helping everyone write to their fullest potential and act to their fullest potential is something I’m very excited to work on with everyone.”
Macedo runs The Suspenders with Taylor Rivers, a senior majoring in theater, who serves as the troupe’s technical director. As technical director, Rivers directs lights, manages the stage and works to ensure that Macedo’s vision is executed.
“[The troupe] showed me in particular what my strengths and weaknesses were,” Rivers said. “[It] allowed me a place to be wild in my writing and experimental in my acting, and through that I found my voice.”
Macedo also credits The Suspenders with personal and artistic growth.
“I can say that we both have grown a lot as artists, just from getting notes every week about our writing and seeing what works in shows and what doesn’t,” Macedo said. “I credit a lot of who I am today as an artist to The Suspenders.”
Outside of the troupe, Macedo serves as the voice of Ander on the Netflix original series “Elite.” Rivers is a published poet and professional lighting designer. However, they’re not the only Suspenders members doing big things.
Several Suspenders alumni work at United Talent Agency and Creative Artists Agency, the top two talent agencies in the country. Many continue to write and act, and some, like Rozenweig, have even gone on to found their own production companies, Macedo said.
Aside from providing laughs, The Suspenders also pride themselves on having a diverse cast. Troupe members come from a host of academic backgrounds, including business administration and dentistry, Rivers said. The troupe places a particular emphasis on diversity, especially because the field has largely been dominated by white actors.
“We are very diverse in our genetic makeup as well, whereas a lot of comedy troupes I think have the reputation of just being straight white men,” Macedo said. “The past two presidents have been an African American woman and a Latina woman. We did a sketch where we had Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker [in] a Rush Hour Parody. We pride ourselves on being able to do that because we have a very eclectic group.”
Though many of the troupe’s members come from film and theater backgrounds, Macedo and Rivers hope students from a host of different majors and minors aren’t deterred from giving the troupe a try.
“[We look for] people who are wacky and unafraid to be weird, people who have a range of characters, and people that are fun to work with” Macedo said.
Auditions will be held Sept. 9 and 10. Performers will be asked to perform pre-prepared monologues released during the second week of classes. Writers will be asked to submit two sketches and a writing supplement.
“The Suspenders is great for people that want to take control of the art they make, people who like comedy and community” Macedo said. “It’s a great opportunity to learn from people who are going to be in this industry.”