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In On It: The Evolution of Duke’s Premier Sketch Comedy Group

Founded in 2000, Inside Joke describes themselves as “Duke’s premiere (and only) sketch comedy group.” They started as an inspired group of undergraduate students and have continued to flourish since their inception, particularly in recent years.

What makes Inside Joke unique is that it is a group focused primarily on sketch comedy—think scripted, rehearsed, SNL-variety fun. Because of this refreshing comedic style, Inside Joke has enjoyed an increasingly visible presence on campus and social media throughout the past few years.

Kasper Kubica, a junior who has been in the group since he was a freshman, recalls that “three years ago, a crowd of fifty people would've been big” but now their shows “routinely sell out.”

In the past four years alone, Inside Joke has grown from seven members to 20, allowing them to “put on much bigger shows and produce more content in general,” said Arjan Saraon, a senior and the current president of the group, who has been a member since 2012.

Another factor that may have contributed to Inside Joke’s recent success is their new mentor David Smith, who was formerly involved in one of Chicago’s largest comedy theaters, The Second City.

Saraon said Smith has been “a generally fantastic mentor” and helped them refine their style by “teaching [them] some of the nuances of comedy.”

Of course, it is the members of the group themselves who have had the most to do with their own success. Saraon cites the group’s propensity for “[trying] different methods to help foster creativity, increase production and keep meetings fun” as one of the main reasons for their rapid evolution.

The group has had its fair share of hardships, however. A few years ago, Inside Joke almost disbanded after the tragic death of one of its members, Kubica said in an email. When Kubica came to Duke in 2013, even though it had had a 12-year legacy, the group was comprised solely of “a few passionate members trying to make something from nearly nothing.”

In spite of such a major setback, however, the group’s members persevered and Inside Joke is now thriving. The addition of new members from the freshman class of 2019 promise to add to the versatility and appeal of the group and its sketches.

“We've heard a lot of new voices in the group with the new class that we just took,” said sophomore Madeline Taylor. “They have so much talent and drive, and they are pushing everyone in the group to step up their game.”

This is especially evident in the group’s rehearsals, in which members typically create a “list of funny”—defined by Taylor as “a humongous list of funny things that [the members] think could potentially be turned into sketches.”

The members then take ideas from the list and riff off of them to determine which possible directions a potential sketch could go. More generally, the rehearsals are a time for members to throw around ideas, a time for “just a bunch of slightly off folks [to be] themselves,” Kubica said.

The group will be debuting the new and original sketches that were carefully thought-out in their rehearsals during their Oct. 16 show in Reynolds Theater, “Inside Joke: Half Baked Noobies.” Their largest performance in three years, this show will highlight the new recruits of Inside Joke and their unique talents and humors.

“It has the biggest variety of humor types [Inside Joke] has ever put out… whether you're a Will Ferrell, Tina Fey or David Sedaris type, you're going to like this show,” Kubica said.

So if you’re not doing anything on a Friday night at 8 p.m., come see the product of years of evolution, and maybe have a laugh while you’re at it.

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