Comedy judges choose five Divine funnies


    By Tiffany Bird

    Mary Hendengren?s name was called to be next on stage. She gathered her props and casually waited for the performer before her to finish. Not a hint of nervousness.

    Because it was her second time trying out for Divine Comedy, Hendengren, a junior from Provo, knew what to expect this time around. The trick is to keep it under two minutes and catch the attention of the judges.

    ?I tried out last year and made it to callbacks, but didn?t make it after callbacks,? Hendengren said. ?That happened to a lot of people.?

    Hendengren energetically jumped on stage and began her skit on the importance of hygiene as it relates to the Honor Code.

    The audience laughed, the judges clapped and it got her to the callbacks.

    ?When I went up there, I just don?t really know how little time I have,? Hendengren said. ?It always surprises you how little time you have.?

    With no money or benefits to offer, Divine Comedy still received a huge response at the tryouts because of their popularity and people?s desire to perform comedy.

    ?It?s for the love of our art,? said William Rubio, a sophomore from Miami, Fla., who tried out for Divine Comedy. ?It?s for the passion that wells up inside.?

    Trying out for Divine Comedy, an organization under the Theatre Media Arts Department, requires three steps. First, show up at one of the tryout times. Second, fill out an application. Third, perform a two-minute original skit or stand-up. Then wait for the callbacks.

    ?I went to the auditions kind of not knowing what to expect,? Rubio said. ?I thought my brand of comedy was a little different, so I wasn?t sure if people were going to get it. But thankfully they did and it was appreciated.?

    The tryout process may seem easy, but those who tried out for the 2004 season of Divine Comedy competed against approximately 100 other contestants for only five openings.

    ?[This time] I kind of knew what I was getting myself into,? Hendengren said. ?I knew that there was going to be a lot of people.?

    Each contestant had a different strategy for making it into Divine Comedy.

    ?Three out of five people who made it into Divine Comedy didn?t know a lot about it or have never seen it before,? said Brynn Kelly, a senior from Eastchester, N.Y., majoring in English, one of the new members of Divine Comedy. ?I think that sort of helped us [those who didn?t know much about Divine Comedy], because I had no idea how competitive it was. I had no idea what it would be like. It sort of made it easier going into it, not having a lot of expectations.?

    It was an interesting experience for the senior members of Divine Comedy to judge the tryouts.

    ?It was weird because you remember yourself there when you did it,? said Aaron Allen, a judge and a member of Divine Comedy since his freshman year. ?And the quality of the people we have trying out now has increased incredibly. So you are sitting there and you are laughing, but at the same time you are hilariously insecure because you?re like, ?Well, this guy is funnier than me. I?m glad he didn?t try out my year.??

    Judges said it was not easy to narrow 100 people down to 20 for the callbacks.

    ?It gets really hard,? Allen said. ?For some people, your heart goes out to them because they are not that funny. We have to have a courtesy laugh here and there because you don?t want them to feel bad. And some people you just can?t wait for callbacks because you just know they will be hilarious.?

    At the callbacks, the hope-to-be comedians endured a day of rigorous training and competing for a spot in the unpaid, time-consuming organization.

    The callbacks required improv exercises, coming up with a skit in groups in 15 minutes, performing two-minute sketches and fixing sketches with problems.

    ?It doesn?t sound like much, but it was a lot, and it was intense,? said Ian Kelly, a senior from Eastchester, N.Y., majoring in media arts, another contestant at this year?s tryouts.

    For many, the callbacks were the hardest part.

    ?There was a lot of tension in the air because people really, really wanted to make Divine Comedy,? Brynn said.

    After the tryouts and callbacks, the returning senior members of the group got together to vote for whom they thought would be the best candidates for the 2004-2005 Divine Comedy cast members.

    ?It?s horrible,? Allen said. ?With some people, they are just so close. You don?t want them to go anywhere, you want them to come back next year and be as excited as they are. The number one thing you don?t want is for people to be bitter.?

    According to the Divine Comedy Web site, the judges look for creativity, stage presence, flexibility and overall funny factor. In the end, the judges pick the people that can

    contribute the most to the troupe at the auditions.

    ?I can?t speak for the group, but what I looked for is somebody that I think is funny and I think would be fun to work with,? Allen said. ?I look for somebody that will fill some kind of need that we have in the cast at the time.

    ?For instance, in this audition, we really needed some writers. So I put a premium on people who did original material and performed it.?

    The final deciding factor for choosing the new cast members was to vary the types of humor in Divine Comedy, Allen said. There were certain people that had different types of humor that would fit well with the group. Then there were others just as funny, but there were already people in the group with the same type of humor.

    The final five that made it into Divine Comedy were William Rubio, Ian Kelly, Mary Hendengren, Brynn Kelly and Kats Rogo-Manduli.

    For more information about Divine Comedy, visit

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