Inside look at Divine Comedy’s go-to girl

Tori Pence poses during a photo shoot for the sketch comedy group Divine Comedy. Pence became a member of the group during her second semester at BYU. (Lauren VanDerwerken)
Tori Pence poses during a photo shoot for the sketch comedy group Divine Comedy. Pence became a member of the group during her second semester at BYU. (Lauren VanDerwerken)

BYU student Tori Pence may not have been naturally funny, but as number six in a family of eight she had to distinguish herself somehow. Divine Comedy fit the bill.

Divine Comedy has been on the BYU lanscape since 1994. Pence joined the clean comedy group during her second semester at BYU. She heard about the auditions from coworkers at Aspen Grove, where she was working at the time. Although she had never performed a legitimate comedic act in front of someone, her audition included a standup routine that won her a spot in the Divine Comedy family.

Pence had not expected the amount of time Divine Comedy demanded when she joined but mentioned that she built quality friendships within the group.

“Divine Comedy has totally taken over my college life. You spend so much time with the other Divine Comedy folks that they become the people you hang out with most of the time,” Pence said. “We write our own sketches and material, so even when we are not rehearsing, I’m constantly thinking of new sketches.”

Divine Comedy sketches are known to be complex and energetic, which energizes the audience. Although the sketches give Divine Comedy credit and popularity, Pence said that they tend to be time consuming. Pence spends two to four hours a week writing sketches and 15 hours a week for rehearsals during show week. Pence is stretched for time and energy as she balances two jobs and a 15-credit class schedule with her Divine Comedy workload.

Sophomore Wesley Morgan, a physics teaching major and Divine Comedy fan, said the last Divine Comedy show he attended was entertaining and refreshing.

“I like how they are really creative,” Morgan said. “They were very clever with all of their jokes.”

Inspiration for Divine Comedy sketches can come from almost anything, which provides a new feel to each show. The comedians do not have to put much effort into thinking on the spot. By the time a show approaches, they have the script memorized.

Although Pence has performed some improv comedy, she said Divine Comedy is easier to handle.

“Improv is about 6.9 times harder than sketch comedy, which is what Divine Comedy does. I have the utmost respect for improv comedians,” Pence said. “I get the opportunity to write, edit and rewrite my material, to check for joke density, but improvisors just get up there with their minds whirring, spitting out the brilliance that springs to their quick-witted minds.”

Andrew Alston, a senior at BYU and one of Pence’s long-time friends, said Pence gives major talent to Divine Comedy.

“I think she provides a lot of depth, since she is a talented singer and performer. A lot of people do not realize that at first, but it’s probably her strongest asset,” Alston said. “She is also quite capable of subtle humor but can go over the top without seeming annoying. She has a natural comedic sense that way, and it probably stems from her growing up in such a funny, artistic family.”

Due to her large family, Pence had to make herself stand out. She became loud and funny in order to get people to notice her personality and many talents. Pence’s role in Divine Comedy allows her to leave a mark at BYU and make people laugh.

“I relied very heavily on humor when I was growing up, putting shows on for people to make them love me,” Pence said. “I figured out rather quickly that everyone liked funny people.”

Although Divine Comedy has consumed most of her college experience, Pence said she uses the skills she learned from being in the group to help her with her job as a storyteller at the Provo Library.

“I apply the sketch-writing skills I’ve developed in Divine Comedy to the shows we do in story time, and I get to make moms, dads and kids laugh every day,” Pence said.

Her love for Divine Comedy has made the BYU college experience unforgettable for the bookwork with large circular glasses and an always-changing pixie cut, and she hopes to continue performing acts after college.

“Divine Comedy changes you, makes you want more from life, shows you how happy you can make people,” Pence said. “So hopefully I’ll find a way to continue performing after I graduate, because once you start, you can’t stop.”

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