Whether they are re in the basement of 280, the Little Room in Chase Hall or the Ronj, the Strange Bedfellows, Bates’ improvisation comedy group, have certainly created an entertaining reputation for themselves. While the group is small in numbers, they never fail to bring their A-game and use their size to their advantage in their performances. Among these impressive qualities, the Strange Bedfellows are going above and beyond their humor to expand the presence of comedy on campus.
For a while, the Strange Bedfellows were the only group on campus whose sole focus was stand-up comedy. However, Dan Peeples ’17 believes there is so much room for growth and expansion among the performing arts to incorporate more stand-up comedy. One project they are working is called the “Bates Weekend Update.” Mirroring Saturday Night Live’s famous skit “Weekend Update,” this project will highlight relevant issues in the Bates community in a more comedic fashion by doing student interviews, stand-up bits and written sketches. Peeples said, “We are playing around with the idea of filming it in front of a live audience, and hope to release our first episode later this semester. The goal is to give students a way to view performance in small, digestible, ten minute bits without having to commit one or two hours to a single show. It also would allow us to have a live performance once every one or two weeks, that also can be watched after the fact by anyone who missed the show.”
The Strange Bedfellows are currently planning on hosting two events: a stand-up comedy night and a comedy musical revue, co-sponsored by the Robinson Players. According to Peeples, the performers in the musical revue “will take a Billboard Top 40 song and, without changing the words, manipulate the context in any way they like. For example, Taylor Swift’s subdued love song ‘You Belong With Me’ can be turned into a monstrous retelling of a satanic demon dragging its culprit to hell.”
The stand-up comedy night will take place early next semester and will feature Peeples alongside fellow Bedfellow Will Koller ’17. Peeples said, “This offers Will and I the opportunity to test out longer jokes that are more narrative based, and to experiment more with the form of stand-up as a medium.”
What’s worth mentioning about the Strange Bedfellows is that they have accepted a single new member into their small group of comedians to bolster the upcoming comedy events. Joseph Alp ’18 “was a stand-out mostly due to his confidence on stage and his willingness to engage with the guiding principles of improv, including character creation, relationship building and the establishment of an objective and location of a scene,” according to Koller. “These qualities stood out in his performance at the Parents’ Weekend show, where, for example, he played the character of Moby Dick with unprecedented confidence.”
Dan Peeples ’17 agrees that the Back to Bates Weekend show was a great way to introduce Alp to the Bates community. “We thought the crowd of parents and students was the perfect environment to perform in, and were pleased with how relaxed we all felt on stage.” Strange Bedfellow alum John Goodman ’15 was also in the audience and got called back to the stage to perform in a game called “Returns Counter.” Along with Alp, Peeples and Koller, the other group members include Ian Erickson ’18 and Whitney Lees ’17.
This year is the first year the group’s membership will remain constant. As any club or organization experiences, students are transferring, going abroad or leaving the group; the membership is never steady. However, this year’s group of Strange Bedfellows is looking forward to their first taste of consistency. Koller said, “This is especially important for a comedy form such as improv where group dynamic and group-mind are such important aspects of performance. The more time we spend together as a group, the better we get.”
Peeples said, “It’s great being able to work with such a small and tight knit group. The chemistry is what is important to building a strong improv team, and we think we have all the tools to be the best we can be this year.”
Their goal is to solidify their chemistry and start performing at regular venues, both of which will boost the presence of comedy on campus and hopefully provide the student body with a variety of entertainment opportunities.