Columbia alums and former Fruit Paunchers Michael Molina (CC ’10), Colin Drummond (CC ’09) and Addison Anderson (CC ’07) created and write for a new sketch comedy group, Local Empire, which focuses on the absurdities of life in the city. One of their sketches, “Phone Girl,” recently got attention from Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, and College Humor. Bwog’s ambassador to plush terricloth robes, Katherine Nevitt, left her room, commuted downtown, talked with the trio over coffee, and is now putting in a promotional plug for their monthly show that you should all go to this Tuesday night starting at 8pm, at Public Assembly.
Bwog: So creating Local Empire…how did that work?
Michael: We started writing together a few years ago doing some sketch comedy, making videos. Our first big project was actually an animated show, but at the end of the day, all the people we pitched it to were like…have you done anything? So we were like okay guys we have to make something; we didn’t have anything tangible.
Addison: We’d been on development but we just wanted to make a final produt and pitch that around.
Colin: The working title for Local Empire was actually Volumes. The idea was writing volumes of sketches and turning something out that was tangible. We’d been writing without doing but we wanted to actually make something.
What does the typical process of sketch writing and recording look like?
M: We sit in my living room and brainstorm a bunch of jokes, or shitty things that happen to us. We’ll make a huge list and then someone will just start calling which joke they want to make a sketch out of. Then we come together a couple of weeks later, and look at what’s the best.
C: We shoot over two weekends, four days of shooting. So about eight to ten sketches every couple weeks. It’s intense—in like ten or twelve hours we’ll try to do two to three sketches.
A: This round though was easier than the first time when we were just getting it off the ground. With this show we’re really realizing the importance of high production value.
M: Its great to look at our first sketches that we directed with a shitty camera though, because the jokes are funny but, we just set up the camera on a tripod and were like, just go!
What are the monthly shows like?
C: We premiere blocks of sketches. Everything is organized around a theme each month, like last month was 8:33 am, this month is table for two and everything has to do with food.
A: We have a stand-up come in and do their set and we do an interview with someone relatd to theme..for 8:33 AM we ha a local news anchor.
What got you all into Comedy? What made you guys join Fruit Paunch when you were here?
M: In high school I did some improv… horrible, horrible. But when I got to college I saw Addison on student activites day and I was like, “hey is this the improv club?” and he was like “yeah, it’s the only one!” which was a total lie…but I tried out and did that.
C: I had an improv group in high school that was basically a copy of Whose Line Is It Anyway…My sister went to Columbia and she had a roommate who was in Fruit Paunch, so I was like, “well I’m a sho0-in.”
A: In California we had to take some arts class to graduate high school so I did an acting one where we did improv. When I got to Columbia, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I did know that I wanted to do comedy, so I went and auditioned for Fruit Paunch. Jenny Slate and Gabe Liedman were in it when I was a freshman.
What do you guys see yourselves doing in the future?
A: We want to take Local Empire as far as it can go. We’d like to see it on TV and after that keep writing and creating our own stuff.
M: Basically get paid to write. It would be a dream to live on creating stuff.
M: We hope that Local Empire can be the thing that springboards us into the next level of creativity. Actually, I just want a cool hundo every day.
A: Yeah, I want fat hundos.
M: Money just pouring out of my face.
A: A G stack is what they call it.
M: I want an official twitter account.
A: Yeah I want to get a verrified twitter
Now for some Columbia trivia to see how much you remember. _____’s Grill in John Jay Dining Hall.
M: Mama’s….she makes the omelettes??
M: She was a mom though..to all of us. I always thought the popular kids were the ones that were in with her. They were like “what’s up, just the regular!” and she was like, “You’re the coolest kid in school!” and I was like, damn it.
How long does it take to get from John Jay to Hamilton?
C: I was in John Jay my freshman year, and once I did four shots before Lit Hum and I’m pretty sure I made it over there in about a minute. But you’ve got to acount for the Hamilton elevators…those are terrible.
40 days before graduation, seniors do what?
C: 40s on the steps.
A: Now you’re like rushed into a prison camp corner and given a cup. The year before mine someone climbed up on Alma Mater and like humped her face or something. It was bad, so for my year they put us on the grass and were like, “enjoy the steps from there.”
The bar that—
In chorus: 1020
The name of the campus blog that everyone loves?
M: Columbia Spec!
A: It’s called the Bwug?
M: The Blue and White Online Guide…Bwog. That’s what it is. I got it.
Let’s see if you remember Lit Hum. I’m going to give you buzz descriptions and you tell me if it’s from the Iliad or the Odyssey.
M: He’s a Classics major, what do you want?
A: The movie Troy came out when I was in Lit Hum and everyone was losing their shit about what they didn’t put in from the book. And the whole time the dude next to me was getting an HJ.
C: Pursue what you love and work really hard at it.
M: I think just…you know…and then if you’re there…just keep on…and it’s always going to be… you know what I mean?
A: Everyone should at least try out for an improv group because you’ll have fun and it will be fun for everyone who has to watch too.
M: Just do a lot of stuff and like people. Don’t be a jerk.
[Interview has been edited for clarity and brevity]