Sketch comedy, as a medium, has seen some pretty widespread changes over the past decade or so. The year 2005 saw the birth of YouTube, arguably the most responsible party for the brand of professionally produced observational comedy videos that now dominate the Internet, and as a consequence, the current reigning set of comedians and companies producing original content is much different from that of ten years ago.
This is what makes Harvard Sailing Team, the sketch comedy team from New York City that performed Thursday night for students, so remarkable. The team, made up of five women and four men, began a little over 10 years ago. The group has weathered the changes in the comedy world and adapted with the media, doing live shows for six years straight before switching to online videos.
“[For class] we had to put on a show at the end of every semester,” Sara Taylor, a member of Harvard Sailing Team, said. “We just really liked it, and decided that this should be our way to make our own work after we graduated.”
While sketch comedy isn’t the members’ main source of income, they still manage to make videos and do other projects regularly.
“I’m actually the only one that is still here in New York, on the East Coast,” Taylor said. “Everybody else is in LA. We don’t do performances very often anymore, except at colleges, but we still do videos. We did a pilot back in the fall, so we still kind of get together to work on bigger projects, and that kind of stuff.”
In addition to the challenge of doing comedy long-distance, the nature of Harvard Sailing Team has several other built-in constraints. For starters, a group of nine is a pretty large group for everyone to have a role and to cooperate regularly on projects. But the team sees the size as a creative challenge.
In addition, Harvard Sailing Team stays away from sex jokes, which is used as a humor safety net by other artists in the college comedy market.
“We used to say ‘family friendly,’” Taylor said, “but I feel like that just makes us sound boring, so we don’t really say that anymore. But yeah, it’s sort of just slice of life, pointing out the absurdities in everyday human interaction and just the way people are funny and awkward with each other.”