U. students showcase comedic talent at 'Rutgers Night Live'
Live from New Brunswick, Cabaret Theatre presented “Rutgers Night Live: Declaration of Sindependence,” over the weekend.
Inspired by the iconic late night sketch show "Saturday Night Live," every sketch was written, produced and directed by students, and often made references to pop culture, politics and of course campus life at Rutgers. The three-night event marked RNL’s first production of the semester, but it’s not over yet.
Producer Jamie Einiger, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said, "You’re in it for life," meaning once you see it live for the first time, the anticipation for the next RNL production is just as exciting as the next presidential election (cue comedy punchline sound effect).
This weekend’s show was titled "RNL 17(76): The Declaration of Sindependence,” a play on words to spice up the title of their 17th production. “Every RNL they produce, they make a joke about the number in the title,” Einiger said. “For example, the 15th was 'Quinceanera’ and the 16th was ’16 going on 17’ and this time they did ‘17(76)’ in relation to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.” During a particularly intense political climate, the joke was quite fitting.
Like every SNL sketch, the RNL skits aimed to be relatable, especially for Rutgers students. Written and directed by Director of Marketing John Lerman, the opening scene “Raceblock,” opened with a drunk grandma, played by Francesca Petrucci, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, tweeting while on the couch watching President Donald J. Trump on the television. An advertising comedy sketch promotes a new technology called “Raceblock,” which checks for any racial content while live autocorrecting your social media posts before you even post it. While scanning for racially motivated slander in real time, other supporters come on stage to promote their product, as they say the product will “P.C. your life.” With so much backlash and protests on social media, RNL took the idea of free speech and put a humorous twist on it.
Faced with the pressure of presenting an entertaining opening monologue, Katie Siegel, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, tried some stand-up comedy, and insisted that if she wasn’t funny, she’d perform “Africa” by Toto. Luckily, she kept the crowd laughing on the edge of their seats as she cracked jokes about her experiences at Rutgers. She also got specific about the number seven, poking fun at herself for the way she writes it. “What’s scarier than me writing my seven’s the way I do? Is that seven ate nine,” Siegel said at the end of her set.
Nate Persad, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, shared why he comes out to RNL every semester. “My roommate Christopher Michael (a School of Arts and Sciences senior) is the RNL representative, and I have come every time since freshman year. They do an SNL type show by keeping it original and it always keeps me laughing. Chris wants to become a comedian and his passion toward this production is amazing. A favorite sketch of mine is the 'Digital Short' from spring semester of 2016. It was an interview style sketch and ever since I’ve come back to see what’s next,” Persad said.
Like SNL, the cast of RNL brought musical guests to the stage during intermission. Nina Langhorn, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, sang “Thinkin Bout You” by Frank Ocean, a performance that got the crowd vibing. After Langhorn’s set, the next sketch took a break from political comedy and took a lighter route with an uplifting scene called “The Classic Restaurant.” Written by Associate Artistic Director Madhu Murali, three friends decide to go out for a nice American dinner at a fictional diner, “BJ’s”. What turns out to be a simple order backfires on Oren Merhav, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, who plays Mike. “What’s so hard about wanting a classic American burger?” he cries. While his friends order more complicated dishes, Mike wonders why his meal is the most American meal and can’t be made properly. Even the manager doesn’t approve, and Mike’s irrational temper is not tolerated at BJ’s. Everyone is embarrassed, even the audience.
RNL ended by poking fun at Dunkin’ Donuts, who recently announced the brand would be shortening their name to Dunkin’. Gil and Phil, played by Lerman and Mohsin Sharif, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, held auditions for the new Dunkin’ commercial they were filming. After Phil asked, “What are you drinking,” the three actors in the sketch replied with “I’m drinking Dunkin',” each response in a different tone and with a different personality. Loud-mouth New Yorker Tony, played by Michael, won the audition by exclaiming, “Whoa watch it, I’m drinking Dunkin over here.”
It’s amazing how these creative, hilarious sketches were all produced and written by college students, and RNL exemplifies the talented Rutgers student body. Einiger said anyone can get involved with RNL, even if they are not a part of Cabaret Theatre. Auditions for the next shows are coming up soon and if they are anything like the Dunkin' auditions, experience is not mandatory, but humor is expected.