‘Elon Tonight’ prepares to launch new season

By Stephanie Butzer

Resilient. Shenanigans. Family.

Those are three words students from “Elon Tonight” used to describe their organization. The student-run sketch comedy show is written, directed, edited, produced and performed by Elon University students.

On Nov. 30, “Elon Tonight,” with the help of SUB, will present its fall showcase in LaRose Digital Theatre, which will highlight the best clips from “Elon Tonight” during the fall semester.

Although cast and crew members often stagger under the enormous weight of work throughout the semester, “Elon Tonight” is consistently promoted on social media outlets so the community and those beyond it can enjoy the students’ work.

“It is a lot of work, and I mean a lot of work, but at times, ‘Elon Tonight’ can be pure, unbridled joy,” said senior Scott Richardson, executive director of the show.

To create a comedy show, it is important for the people involved to be humorous and creative. A major part of the work is allowing their minds to wander and play, Richardson said. Their best scripts come to mind when they behave like children and think outside the box.

“We’re a comedy show,” Richardson said. “We have to have fun creating. It requires the proper mindset.”

“Elon Tonight” is going strong after it almost caved in two years ago. Photo submitted by Scott Richardson

Richardson said he is more than thrilled that the show has found a way to combine work and play. Even at 4 a.m. in the editing suites — a common occurrence for people involved with the show — the students still find ways to get the work done and have fun at the same time.

“We’re a community, we’re a family,” Richardson said. “One giant, sleep-deprived family with a weird sense of humor.”

For Richardson, there have been many times when he forgot he was doing work, because it felt like he was just hanging out with friends. It is an ease and comfort that has allowed the cast and crew to build strong friendships throughout each semester.

“’Elon Tonight’ is a group of people coming together and doing what they love,” said junior John Molloy, who acts in a number of sketches each episode. “The end product just so happens to be a TV show.“

Students do not receive academic credit or a stipend for their work. They take on all the projects and meet all the deadlines simply because they love the show, Richardson said.

But two years ago, the show was caving in on itself. Leadership was uncertain, and when the organization went through a transitional period because of creative differences, no content was produced. New members lost interest, and 35 active students became just 15.

Thanks to a small band of people, though, Elon Tonight regained its footing.

“Although it was a small group, they were a very dedicated bunch. And they’re what kept the show alive until the following year,” Richardson said. “We’re stronger, funnier and more unified than ever. Bring on the challenge. We can handle it.”

The interest level has also grown. In the spring of 2011, “Elon Tonight” had 12 to 15 interested members. As of fall 2012, it has 50 to 60 members. “Elon Tonight” continues to push forward into Season Four, Richardson said.

“We’ve done nothing but improve since the beginning,” he said. “And we’re still on the rise. I cannot wait for this episode to be released. It’s going to be something special.”

This season, the actors have tried improvising during their sketches and found that it produced some of the best work they have ever done. When difficulties come up, students roll with the punches.

“One time I had to make peasant costumes out of the cover of a beanbag I found on the side of the road,” said first-year Lindsey Lanquist, producer of the show. “Now that’s a shenanigan at its finest.”

Lanquist said she often finds herself in awe of other students at “Elon Tonight.”

“Sometimes it’s the actors improvising something hilariously creative on set, and other times it’s a director conveying his or her vision of a sketch, and I just think to myself, ‘Wow, I could never do that,’” she said.

Molloy said he looked back at sketches from the show’s first season and couldn’t help but notice how much the quality has improved.

“That’s what you get when you have a team of people like this who are dedicated to producing a great show and always improving what they have,” he said.

Richardson, who graduates in May, said he will miss the people of “Elon Tonight” the most when he leaves Elon. In all his life, he said he has never laughed harder than during the time he has spent with people on the show.

“Laughter is contagious,” Richardson said. “And we laugh a lot.”

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