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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

BTV shows bring Brandeis spirit to screen

Published: October 17, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

After watching reports of our economy recede from the crashing stock market, watching BTV introduce a new sitcom, STANJY, as well as the season premiere of Slice and ’Deis was a perfect way to ease my mind out of the red.

As I entered the Shapiro Atrium for the premieres, I was greeted by three loons wearing those mask-like, mustached-nosed glasses. The loony trio later introduced themselves to the audience as STeve, ANdy, and BenJY; or as they and others refer to them collectively as, STANJY. The three-for-one packaged group of sophomores met as roommates in their forced triple freshman year. Through BTV, they saw a demand for their unscripted, unabashed style of humor and decided to supply.

In producing their show STANJY, the three strive for nothing more than to showcase their true-to-life humor by editing-in the best of their improvised lines into a twenty-five minute sitcom—quite a time-efficient and cost-effective way to provide laughs. Their first episode “Burned at the Stake” starts off slow with a scene of them sitting on toilets and talking about dragonflies and gibberish. The audience immediately caught on to the strong bonds among STANJY, but the humor was harder to grasp.

After this pricey startup, the show gathered gradual gains in chuckles as the plot progressed and introduced new characters. The plot starts with Steve (played by Steve Ragno ’11) burning his hand on a steak he was grilling. This burn scratches his chances of winning the handwriting contest he entered; and so, he, Andy, (played by Andy Glynn ’11) and Benjy (played by Benjy Cooper ’11) search for a skilled hand-writer to replace his seat in the contest.

The simple plotline and character structure lent this episode the freedom to explore STANJY’s improvisational skills—not a bad trade in the humor market. The offset is that their unscripted lines are just okay. It is hit or miss with most of them, but they fire a lot, so the misses are almost overlooked. The show really hits the bullseyes with its transitions, which feature quirky filming effects to create some hilarious moments. The show’s obvious low-budgeted props and sets, along with some ridiculous extra characters—namely “Stone cold mothafucka” as credited—also add to its comedy.

Although the cast of STANJY had no prior experience to acting, filming, or producing, they still manage a decent show. The few lines that are scripted are blatantly so and break the continuity of some conversations. Also, it is hard to distinguish the different personality types of the STANJY group; each member gives a care-free vibe but you cannot tell what makes them distinct. Overall, a half hour’s time is a fairly small opportunity cost to pay for the laughs that STANJY provides. When the Dow drops another three-hundred points, STANJY will likely succeed in lifting your spirits and making you laugh.

After premiering STANJY, BTV faced some technical difficulties when trying to play Slice and ’Deis and had to leave the audience sliceless for the night. Slice and ’Deis Producer, Arun Narayanan ’10, explained to the audience that the burned DVD of the episode did not work. He also explained that a backup that BTV was burning had frozen before reaching 100% completion.

“It works on the computer,” said Narayanan in an interview with the Hoot. “We still want to show [the episode] so we’ll try to reschedule [a showing] for next week, assuming we can figure out the problem.”

Although BTV had no bail-out plan for the majority of the audience, a couple of close friends of the show’s cast and I were able to sneak a peak at an early showing of the episode by watching it on the computer in the BTV office.

Always creative in the opening credits, Slice and ’Deis’ fourth episode, “Drunk in ’Deis,” parodies the opening from Chappelle’s Show by featuring Gdaly Berlin ’10 on the guitar and Narayanan strutting by and throwing money into a trashcan (how economically fitting). Resourceful with its time, “Drunk in ’Deis” jumps right into the plot about parties at Brandeis from the get go.

It starts with six friends; Ed (played by Berlin), Brendon (played by Alex Gaman ’09), Ronnie (played by Ted Levin ’10), Walter (played by Josh Reuss ’10), Nicole (played by Diana Benlevy ’09), and Lindsay (played by Larissa Liebmann ’10) deciding how to get alcohol for the party they want to throw in Walter’s suite. Ed, Brendon, Ronnie, and Nicole decide to steal alcohol from a Mods party to bring it back and use for Walter’s party. Meanwhile, Walter and Lindsay choose stay in their suite to wait for the alcohol and any guests that arrive. As time passes Ed, Brendon, Ronnie, and Nicole end up partying at the Mods, while Walter and Linsay end up partying with guests who bring alcohol into their suite.

This episode echoes the brunt of Brandeis bashes in much the same way that Superbad reflects a typical night of high school partying; genuine and common situations are hyperbolized for over-the-top comedy. Although this hyperbolizing sounds good in theory, the law of diminishing returns set-in for this episode as it seemed to drag on at the end.

Nonetheless, “Drunk in ’Deis” produced a high entertainment value with many noteworthy performances. Narayanan’s signature cameo appearances were brilliant and hilarious. The extras also played their roles very well and did an amazing job giving some memorable performances. Liebmann, although playing a cliché bored alcoholic college student, still had me smiling from ear to ear with her rendition. The other cast members truly had me laughing as well.

Despite the technical difficulty, this episode will surely start off the new fiscal year for BTV’s Slice and ’Deis with gains. You can catch the premiere of “Drunk in ’Deis” in the Olin Sang auditorium this Sunday (10/19) at 9pm.