I went into The Bad Ones’ debut performance with very little idea as to what the show would be about; now that it is over, I can say that, looking back, I probably knew more about what the show was before it even began.
The show itself was an hour-long constant stream of controlled chaos consisting of various methods. From sketches, improv, and sketch-improv to blind dates, business deals and jokes that only my roommate (who I know will not read this) could say without cringing.
Almost every segment of the show incorporated some audience interaction: at one point, an audience member was chosen to act out the lines fed to him during a scripted improv scene. This, coupled with The Bad Ones’ ability to view themselves from the audience’s perspective by not taking themselves too seriously, created a very active and energized environment not unlike the atmosphere associated with The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The types of comedy implemented featured a wide range of styles and set-ups, the only connecting trend between them being the uniqueness of each bit, even being distinctly different from before. To attempt to succinctly describe what appears to be the over-all style or theme of The Bad Ones in one sentence: they have a freestyle sense of comedy derived from each member of the troupe simply enjoying their time on stage by being their own naturally funny and awkward selves. This creates an almost surreal experience, as the audience is pulled through the hilarious limbo between what is funny and what isn’t.
The Bad Ones are currently made up of a group of six like-minded friends: Will Wamser ‘20, Juli Mindlin ‘20, Jarrett Azar ‘20, Nikki Miller ‘20 and Karly McCloskey ‘20; Ben Goldberg ‘20 was also featured as a guest comedian.
Wamser retells the story of how their small band of comedians first came together, after a few of them saw the SNL comedian when he came to Muhlenberg: “Alex Moffat’s sense of humor and the way he did it was a lot of crowd work and things like that. He wouldn’t really be able to get into any of the comedy groups on campus by doing that just because of the way they’re structured … It was like a lot of really weird humor that was like really fluid and that wasn’t like any of the stuff we have on campus.”
A large part of The Bad Ones’ identity is their goal to be unlike anything Muhlenberg has ever seen — to provide a place for Alex Moffat-like students who don’t want to prescribe to only doing improv or stand-up. Wamser estimates that “we have thousands of improv groups [on campus].”
“Millions,” Mindlin corrects, who also said that because there is only one other stand-up group, there just are not alternatives out there.
“A lot of what we’re looking for — especially in like more people who might want to join — is just stuff that isn’t really represented in other groups,” says Wamser.
The group’s primary comedic subject area resides in making jokes that are challenging to discern if they are actually a joke; essentially, if the end result is the same, why does it matter if your laughing at an actual joke or not?
“I think it’s so funny when you can’t tell if a joke is a joke,” Wamser says.“Are they actually bad or are they doing this intentionally?”
Azar points to some of the video effects like clips and a PowerPoint that were implemented during the show: “We put the music in there, and we used bad text effects and things like that to give it that low budget, low quality vibe.” The goal, as Azar says, is to make the audience think, “Wait, it’s obvious they put a lot of effort into this. It still came out funny, but also bad.”
This is actually part of the reasoning behind their name, as Wamser describes: “We think bad stuff is really funny — hence ‘The Bad Ones.”
Founded for the pursuit of free comedy, The Bad Ones are always interested in accepting new members into the group who want to break the comedy mold. One of the great strengths of their group will be its ability to change and incorporate new ideas as time goes by, which comes from the group’s relative independence as a performance group.
“We’re not even a part of either the MTA or MCA,” says McCloskey. “We’re an independent student organization because we didn’t want to fall under — I don’t know their rules but I’m sure there are rules.”
At the end of the day, The Bad Ones want to do what they find to be funny and perform for a like-minded audience who will appreciate their natural humor. Azar describes this sentiment best: “I think a lot of what we’re doing is subjective, and a lot of what we’re doing is going to depend on the person, but we’re going to do it whether or not other people are going to find it funny.”
The Bad Ones are attempting to bring about a new kind of performance group in Muhlenberg that goes against the grain of popular comedy, and, let me just say, when it comes to comedy, they’re killing it.