V-Show Town Hall

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We weren’t quite sure what to think when the Varsity Show C-team came calling with a request to ask you, dear readers, to tell them how to write this year’s show. Do they really want to expose themselves to netizen ridicule? What good could come of a thread full of ad hominem attacks? But since everyone else seems to be going democratic these days, we thought, might as well foster the effort. Here’s the pitch–try to play nice.

v-showDear Bwog Commenters,

Since many of you whom we may never meet put intelligent thought into criticism and analysis of the Varsity Show, we’d like to solicit your feedback on it for constructive purposes. We feel that there have been Bwog comments in the past that have been good at summating problems with shows succinctly; for example, here’s one from the KCST thread last year that we thought was quite valid.

This is the kind of feedback that interests and affects us.

So, having said that: which Varsity Show of the ones you have seen has been your favorite? Why? What do you like to see in a Varsity Show? What don’t you like to see? What specific things attempted do you think have worked and not worked?  We’re listening, er…reading.


The 114th Annual Varsity Show Creative Team

UPDATE, 10:40 PM: Varsity Show doesn’t actually want you to tell them how to write this year’s show. They sent the following clarification:

“Perhaps we worded this too broadly. We’re looking somewhat more for reactions to things in past years–what people have liked and disliked, specifically in general–than we’re looking for suggestions for this year’s show.”

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  1. I think

    That previously Varsity Shows have kept a consistent tone of always erring on the side of civility and good taste when lampooning campus events of the year, taking care to never be too vicious.

    I propose this year, with respect to the hunger strike, this guideline be waived.

    • Seconded  

      Agreed! Or if you don't want to be tooo brutal, just let the hunger strikers be played by Ghandi.
      And really, (coming from a campus Republican who thinks he's done an amazing job) there cannot be a varsity show without Kulawik. I mean it's his senior year, roast him while you can. The jokes write themselves.

  2. Chris


    ultimate v show character...

  3. Hammerstein

    What's the Varsity Show?

  4. !!!  

    stop trying to shunt off your work on us. aren't you guys supposed to be the *Creative* people? this is your fucking job, stop outsourcing.

  5. rjt  

    Perhaps we worded this too broadly. We're looking somewhat more for reactions to things in past years--what people have liked and disliked, specifically in general--than we're looking for suggestions for this year's show.

    • welll  

      Okayy.... here is a reaction to this years show. You didn't make fun of the hungry strikers enough. And Kulawik wasn't in it. You just blew two great opportunities. The show, overall, was just not that funny.

  6. wow

    dear fuckers,

    you, not we, are the creative team for the varsity show. why don't you think of your own script.

    i remain,

    your sworn enemy

    p.s. catchy songs are actually the key. most of the bit humor is fine and all, but a good song (or dare i say songs is what is really memorable. there are a few i still sing to myself when i am feeling blue.)

  7. yes  

    I agree with what has been previously said. Last year's show really was lacking by not making fun of the College Republicans when many of the events of the year involved them. The whole ABC thing seemed really contrived. I think most people (from across the political spectrum?) would like to see Kulawik roasted pretty well before he graduates & the campus has to search for a new common enemy.

  8. haha  

    Barnard jokes from "Misery Loves Columbia"-Hilarious!

  9. Umm

    why give Kulawik any more attention? I think most of campus would rather forget he ever existed.

  10. turkey day  

    Where's the PONY BALLET?!

  11. yang  

    A cohesive storyline and bears.

  12. clear

    in general: I think people like vshows that include more observational humor relating to actual columbia people and events than characters, situations, and fanciful plots pulled out of the platonic aether.

    so, be more responsive to campus events over the past year, and not just with cheap jokes in passing reference. in the absence of that, connect the show to the actual campus experience/real campus stereotypes. the 2006 show was great because the interschool rivalry is a real aspect of campus life. the 2007 show sucked because no one could relate to people like the obsessive francophile girl, and you miss the opportunity to mock real living situations (for example) when you locate her in the turret of the maison francaise. the whole thing played on overused outside stereotypes and not on underexamined columbia ones.

  13. anti-rjt  

    you could start by not having rob trump as a writer.

  14. my thoughts  

    just remember that you are writing for the whole community, not just weird inbred drama people. for example-
    1) plot should be simple and clear
    2) jokes should be often and funny
    3) songs should be fun
    4) it shouldnt be a target for hatred of drama as a whole

    i think 112 got 2 and 3, while 113 got 3, and both failed on 4.

    it should just be fucking FUNNY, and that's it. nothing more.

  15. simple

    have another gs vs. cc fight. every year.

  16. The prototype

    The quintessential Varsity Show experience for me was and will forever (unless you can top it this year) by 'Dial D for Deadline,' from 2003. (Lest you think I'm a lifetime learner, I'm just a city kid who went to the Varsity Show in high school to see what all the fuss was about.)

    The story could have stood on its own (an intrepid Spec fact-checker wants to make it as a real reporter but can't get his foot in the door, and jumps at the chance to cover a campus murder), but what made it great was that it managed to incorporate send-ups of campus characters and events without feeling forced.

    Think of a great story that could work in any context, then people it with campus characters, let them loose to see what they would actually do if put in that situation instead of trying to force them into awkward scenes and give them awkward lines they would never have, and you'll be okay.

    Incidentally I thought the David Helfand character from last year was the worst character that coulda shoulda worked in the entire production.

  17. i can haz v-show?  

    I have always enjoyed lolcats. Every time I don't see a lolcat in a varsity show, part of my doesn't have lulz.

  18. capcom  

    more writers on strike?

  19. i was sad  

    that you guys didn't play off of the modesitt drama last year. :(

  20. hmm  

    I think the varsity show should change its colors. Its literal colors. Yellow is out. It represents cowardice, urine, and roughly 50% of a bee. Try a new color. May I throw out periwinkle.

  21. someone in  

    the past said it best, that the v-show should be written primarily for freshmen and seniors...for reasons that were eloquently said by that guy in the past.

  22. technical point

    For the love of God do something about the sound during songs. I think I only hear about 1/3 of the words to the songs. I can't laugh if I can't hear.

    Also nerdy jokes about the Core amuse me, but that may just be me.

  23. one more  


    just think of your sample...

  24. suggestion  

    have kieron on stage at all times... I love him.

  25. so..

    last year's show bit. hard. (re)written in a weekend, and it showed.give me characters I can care about and relate to, and the jokes will follow -- promise. that said, i'll be abroad next semester so make it two and a half hours of interpretive dance for all i care (but, seriously, don't - weakest part of 113)

    • crack baby

      last year's planet dance was infinitely funnier than whatever that big dance number was in 112. but then again, is there really a competition when you put 10 people in full, hooded, neon spandex body suits? i dont really think so.

    • Really?

      I actually liked last year's show a lot, although it was the first one I'd been to. And I thought the sound was OK. I guess everyone else went on the wrong night.

  26. town hall suggestion  

    here's a suggestion. move your show to a place that will let the billionty other campus groups use the auditorium. i'm sick and tired of the varsity show getting to occupy one of the few large student spaces we have for such long periods of time.

    • Seconded  

      Actually, you don't need to move the show itself, but you know what would be nice? Allowing other groups in there when you're not rehearsing. There are non-performance groups that could use the space, but you've booked it 24/7 for some reason, when they could easily work around your set if the stage is not being used.

  27. i know  

    that this is not necessarily advice, but am i the only one who thinks that even their letter to bwog was poorly written? specifically in general? come on, people!

  28. wtf  

    as someone who worked backstage on 111, I can assure that the stage is occupied all week long. Forget about rehearsing, there's set construction going on 24x7, usually until right before the show opens.

  29. I think

    People are being a bit harsh on 113. The cast was good, the story was compelling, and the show was SHORT, which is refreshing.

    In terms of this coming year, you really need only two things:
    -Funny jokes
    -Fun songs

    (obviously that is easier said than done, but those are good goals)

  30. purp  

    while makin fun of kulawik wud be funny. i think u might wanna make fun of sumthin institutional, like lonely right wing students, rather than just one in particular

  31. DHI  

    I don't like the songs; perhaps the "musical" format could be abandoned?

  32. thanks for asking  

    I thought the Muses one (what was the real name???) during the 2004-2005 year was the best I've seen in my 4 years here. I still get the viriginia woolf song stuck in my head sometimes.

    That one was the best because the songs were catchy, it was a loving critique of columbia, and it made frequent use of jokes that "only columbia students" would get - which helps us all feel more like a community.

  33. fan

    i want to see jordy lievers as a CHARACTER in this year's show

  34. so true!  

    inside jokes are the funniest. also, i can't remember which songs were which show, but the aim one was hilarious. and making fun of seas is always good. for me the song that gets stuck in my head is "overcommitted".

  35. Also

    Liked the facebook song in the spring '05 one. Actually just loved that whole show.

  36. coogan

    First, stop writing so goddamn much. The best comedy I saw at Columbia was Fruit Paunch improv fresh...I feel as though the Varsity Show writes itself to death. Even though you have an engorged budget (activists group, new campaign!), it doesn't mean you have to pretend you actually ARE a professional show as asking for advice on BWOG shows.

    No more character-driven shows. While it was (kind of) entertaining to see Jeff Sachs among the other well-known deans and professors, the jokes get old quick. Think up different perspectives on a well known event, i.e. the perspective of the hired security detail for the Ahmadinejad event. Then the characters introduce themselves.

  37. GSux

    We need brutal characterizations of individual GSers, we need specific examples of their noxious behavior, for example their 'pee-day' festival when they all got together and drew swastikas in all of the bathrooms. V for Victory against the 'Geriatric Students'

  38. Rob Trump  

    I, Rob Trump, suggest that Jim Williams be replaced with a perfect facsimile of me, Rob Trump, only one year younger than I, so that I may continue to write the Varsity Show for two years after I graduate.

    • Get OUT!

      Donald Trump is rumored to be moving his real estate class to THE SCHOOL OF GENERAL STUDIES. ALERT ALERT ALERT disband the place at once.


      G.S. is e v i l

  39. rps  

    PLZ Fix the sound...all i heard was exuberant mumbling last year...

  40. Better  

    sets than last year, please. It was sort of obvious that most of the set budget went towards constructing those two mini-houses off to the sides of the stage, leaving the actual stage -- where the audience focuses -- woefully underdressed.

    Aside from that, try to incorporate more inside jokes common to the majority of Columbia students into the script. This is terrible, but the funniest V-Show moment from the last four years, hands-down, was the mention of "the creepy twins," because it was something everyone was aware of and no one ever had the guts to say in a public forum.

  41. i am


  42. really?

    you need to ask a bunch of anonymous bwog commenters for tips on how to write your show?
    how do they pick you guys again?

    • lay off  

      of them for asking our opinions for once. they're not asking bwog commenters to write the show for them, just finally realizing that the whole varsity show thing is supposed to be for us as a community, not the ridiculous cliquey drama loser group it always seems to cater to. shut up, say your piece, and be happy they seem like they want to actually give us what we want for once.

      whether or not they actually will, though, we'll have to wait and see.

  43. Please don't

    make this whole fucking show about Manhattanville. The VShow should be more than just a sendup of current events/crises/fiascos. I understand that if you do jokes about things that happened this year, you want everyone to get them. Rather than a Family Guy-esque series of one-liners about the events that happened during the year that everyone knows about, I think your audience will get a lot more out of a style in which jokes don't have to stand alone as ultracontextual and hot off the presses because they come enveloped in a Columbia-specific plot that itself does a good job of making the show feel unique to our community. If the perfect Varsity Show was a print publication, it would be a funny blend of tabloids and the New Yorker

    • i dis/agree

      It's more than being unique to a community, it's being unique to a community at a specific point in time. I think the show DOES need that "hot off the presses" feel. I agree that the show needs a Columbia-specific plot, but I think that's the backbone supporting all the that-year-at-Columbia-specific jokes. But yeah, avoid the Family Guy "step out of context for the joke" thing.

      So like, try real hard.

  44. C.Shure

    What?? Asking Bwog readers for suggestions??? This is more input than the entire cast got last year!!

    But CLEARLY, the key to a good varsity show is riding dirty.

    Veesh love,

  45. musica  

    Please make sure the lyrics are consistent with the script. It is really important that each character's voice does not suddenly transform as they start to sing.

    Also, get some really good jokes, and string them through the whole show. That was lacking last year. Some of the jokes were funny but weren't carried through as full as they could have been. If they are reinforced, people find them funnier and tell them even after the show.

  46. Elna

    On the music. Please realize that you are performing in ROONE. No matter how much money you or any other group spends on audio equipment, people beyond the first 15 rows cannot hear very well. So, if half of the songs are very, very fast, or have too many words in them, or are sung by people who cannot enunciate clearly enough for the speed of the music, things will not turn out well. Lyricists and song writers, please work better together; realize that the 8 bar entry or ballad structures work well and can be physically understood by almost everyone in the audience. While it is great to play around with different styles, if the singer cannot carry it off without stumbling, mumbling, stuttering or slurring, everyone who loves musical theatre will be very, very unhappy.

    Hope that this helps! Especially since this can be fixed with more planning and better communication between members of the PTeam.

  47. hmm  

    The varsity show should start on a C, then crescendo as it hits a G. That should be enough to get you guys going.

  48. rjt  

    Don't know how many people are still reading this, but thanks to the people who read the post, understood what we were looking for, and took time to write responses.

    That is, thanks especially to commenters 9, 10, 14, 16, 18, 20, 23, 27, 32, 38, 43, 45, 46, 47, 52, 55, 56, 59, and 60.

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