Brandon Papo was editing video footage around 2 a.m. in Melnitz Hall. He had not slept in four nights and was beginning to doze off. He eventually fell asleep Monday night – or rather, Tuesday morning – with his head on one rolling chair and his legs on another.
Papo, a third-year film student, filmed and edited video sketches as a member of Spring Sing’s comedy ensemble, Company, which performs live skits and projects videos in between the talent acts.
Papo and the 11 other members of Company each had a hand in every multidisciplinary performance by both writing and starring in their original “Saturday Night Live”-style sketches. For Papo, Company is the ideal mixture of live performance and film. Company members said the group helped them collaborate and gain confidence.
“It’s an amalgamation of everything that I enjoy,” said Danielle Kay, a third-year world arts and cultures/dance student. “This is what I should be doing – I should be embarrassing myself in front of 9,000 people.”
Company met once a week winter quarter in random rooms in Ackerman Union that happened to be open. During meetings, members pitched ideas for sketches and received feedback from the group in a writers’ circle. From there, the writer who pitched the idea decided if the script were worth rewriting and bringing back the next week.
After hearing about 80 pitches, the students heavily edited scripts together. Then the comedians spent every weekend during spring quarter filming the seven videos and practicing the 10 live sketches. Though they sometimes disagreed, the discussions made the final products better, said fourth-year theater student Lila Gavares.
Emily Kerrigan, a third-year music performance student, said each student brought their own set of skills into the mix.
“(Company) can expand you as a performer – not only on stage – but I’d never done any scriptwriting before I did Company,” said Kerrigan, who will perform with Company for the second time.
Some people have a more witty sense of humor, and others can best create character arcs, said Gavares, a third-time Company member.
The theater students motivated others to improve their acting, while dance students such as Kay choreographed routines such as the opening number, Kerrigan said. Kay was intimidated by the writing aspect at first, but gradually became more comfortable.
Papo brought his knowledge of film, theater performance and singing from being in an a cappella group. Papo had always considered himself a solo performer, starting his own comedy YouTube channel during his first year of college. However, his weakness was writing, he said.
Though he describes himself as the quietest of the bunch, Papo said Company allowed him to open up and trust his own ideas.
One representation of Company’s collaboration process occurred when producing last year’s music video “I Can’t Even Deal,” Kerrigan said.
The video began as an idea for a duo venturing around campus and ranting in long monologues, but it received mixed reviews from the members, she said. Over the course of two months, Company molded it into a rap music video.
Students wrote lyrics and a former Company member mixed the track in his apartment. Since his studio was in his closet, the 12 comedians crammed in and belted out “I can’t even deal” to record the chorus as a group.
“It’s a vulnerable process,” Kerrigan said. “It’s taking that vision that we have in our head and making it come to life and just hoping it turns out the way we’re thinking.”
Kerrigan said part of the learning process comes from working with other headstrong people to discuss and develop an agreed-upon idea.
Former “SNL” actress and alumna Nasim Pedrad said she enjoyed brainstorming and bouncing ideas off other members when she was a member of Company from 2001 to 2003.
“It was such a collaborative, fun process, and I’ve kind of been chasing that vibe since,” Pedrad said. “It’s the closest I’ll probably ever come to feeling like a rockstar.”
Pedrad joined Company in her second year as a theater student, looking for any outlets on campus to write and perform comedy, and she was especially drawn to Spring Sing’s large scale. One of her skits parodied the Tom Petty song “Free Fallin’” by changing the lyrics to “Free Ballin.”
The teamwork on Company taught her to put forth what she thought was funny while also being mindful of other people’s tastes and preferences, she said, because the alternative was just a one-woman show.
After working with the members for two quarters, Papo said the collaboration is something he would need in a professional film career.
He is looking forward to Company seeing his edited videos for the first time during Spring Sing. The group has seen rough cuts, but they haven’t watched the final versions complete with a sound system and a large screen.
Though the sketches are kept secret, this year the audience can look forward to a skit that was filmed at 7 a.m. in the Daily Bruin office as well as one overnight shoot filmed outdoors from about midnight to noon.
“For me, Spring Sing is what a football game is for someone else … Spring Sing makes me say ‘I love UCLA,’” Gavares said. “If I could keep doing this same exact thing the rest of my life, I would.”