Q/A: Jacey Ellis

Picture taken by Robert Tucker and provided courtesy of Jacey Ellis.

Ellis goes crazy in a photo shoot for the spring 2013 Underwear Society show. Picture taken by Mathew Eldridge and provided courtesy of Jacey Ellis.

Tickling a whole student body’s funny bone may sound like a daunting task, but Jacey Ellis makes it look easy. In addition to being a senior in the Creative Writing and Literature Department, Ellis is one of the senior-most members of Underwear Society, SFUAD’s only sketch comedy group, which at the end of each semester puts on a show written and performed solely by students. Jackalope Magazine sat down with Ellis to discuss her three years in Underwear Society and her passion for comedy.

Jackalope Magazine: Why did you want to join Underwear Society?

Jacey Ellis: Probably for the same reason anyone wants to join. You go see a show and you can’t believe it’s all students doing everything. But I think probably one of the most important things about the group and why I wanted to join is that it’s such a healthy culture to promote, of comedy on campus, especially amongst students.

JM: What attracts you to sketch comedy?

JE: What doesn’t?! Probably because it doesn’t have to be about any one certain thing, it doesn’t have to ever be written a certain way, so there’s a lot of room for improv, which we do, interpretation, and everything like that. But sketch comedy is its own weird little genre of things, and as a performer you can always change or manipulate that to make it all about you or more funny or anything. It’s great.

JM: What’s the process of preparing an Underwear Society sketch?

JE: Oh, lots of tears…and liquor! But I would say, for mine in particular, I can’t speak for the group, I usually start with either some ridiculous characteristic that is common on campus or that’s really popular. Sophomore year I wrote about a roommate that yells a lot, like a really annoying roommate…

JM: Oh yeah, I remember that one!

JE: Jenny! Yeah! Haha, so it’s about a lot of social tropes and stigmas, and how we can kind of identify and deconstruct them, so I would say any good start to a sketch starts with a really solid character or really funny situation, and then it’s all about how people have to rotate around that to survive.

JM: What qualities do you think are needed for a comedy group to work well together?

JE: I’d definitely say first thing is the willingness to be a part of a group, and this whole new status quo of ideas and things, but that flexibility is huge; confidence definitely; and an openness and a creativeness – so the ability to take sketch ideas from other people but to also work really well with someone else’s vision. That’s huge within the group, is how we relate to and work off of one another. It’s always like a growing thing, so people who are ready to change rapidly…because it’s never one thing and we never have one process getting something done, which is crazy but nice.

JM: Do you think the group for this year will accomplish those criteria?

JE: Oh, of course! Of course. That’s why we picked who we did. I mean, it’s always student-run, students always pick new members, but I was really concerned about finding people who first and foremost really wanted to be in the group, in the sense that we’re not just ‘Underwear Society, the performance funny kids,’ we’re also the hard-working, writing performance artists, and I definitely think this group of people is a diverse group of performance artists, for sure.

JM: Since the theater department will be renovating its performance spaces next semester and you usually perform in the Weckesser Studio Theatre, will there still be an Underwear show next semester?

JE: You know, that’s a really fantastic question! Um, we actually aren’t even performing in the Greer right now or the Weck, we have Alumni Hall, which was given to us through student programming; we finally became a recognized student organization, which is great!

JM: Finally!

JE: Right, yeah, it only took 13 years! But that space, we picked ourselves but also double-checked, and as far as next semester goes, Hamilton [Turner] is working with the theater department, and the marketing department they’ve started there, to get us a performance space on campus. But I don’t know how open or not that’s going to be, so I don’t know if this is the last set of Underwear performances or not.

JM: Oh no! I really hope that’s not true!

JE: Yeah, me too. But I don’t know where, cuz we can’t get Alumni again. We might try, I really want to try, maybe, the Forum. But I don’t know, I think Laura (Fine Hawkes) has a whole team of people picking places for performances. But that’s the thing about Underwear too, is adaptability, so we have to figure out where to perform. I think the bandshell would be cool too, maybe an outside show. But yeah, once Hamilton said we wouldn’t get Alumni again, I was like ‘oh I hope this is not the last of it, but if it is, at least it’s on campus.’

JM: Do you think you’ll continue with comedy and sketch comedy after you graduate?

JE: Yes! My dream, the secret dream, the goal, I would love to go to Groundlings in Chicago to learn how not only to perform with more improv but how to write. Like, Kristen Wiig came out of Groundlings and she wrote Bridesmaids and then people from there go to Upright Citizens Brigade or Second City. But yes, I would absolutely love to continue every part of this after I graduate.