Call it “Saturday Night Live’s” little brother.
The student-produced comedy show “Maryland Night Live” triumphantly kickstarted its 11th season on Friday. Part of The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s NextNOW Fest held every fall semester, the show’s entrance may have been free, but the humor was priceless.
“We’re cooler. We’re funnier. We’re younger,” Maryland Night Live co-director Kaelyn Roney said. “And mostly we’re appealing to UMD humor, which I think is what makes it really special because we have a lot of jokes for students who go here.”
A large crowd of newcomers and dedicated fans, friends and family filed into Dekelboum Concert Hall for the show. Sophia Cichetti, a senior psychology and theater major, had previously attended one of MNL’s “Cut for Time” shows, where the sketches that don’t make it into the fall performance get a chance to shine.
“If that was enjoyable, then [tonight] will probably be hilarious,” Cichetti said before the show.
Cichetti was not wrong. Each skit was highly relatable for University of Maryland students – with snappy remarks about e-scooters, squirrels, the Purple Line and this university’s ranking as the top college for LGBTQ+ students in the U.S.
Aileen Foley, an MNL sketch player and senior computer science and studio art major, served as the show’s host. Her self-aware stand-up delivery immediately hooked the audience and kept them engaged for the entire set.
An opening with commentary on the ever-topical ChatGPT. A news reporter covering a heat wave who finds students feel “eepy.” Mr. Beast sending a lucky contest winner to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory through a time travel machine. A speed dating show from “The Cut,” titled “The Button,” which involved a button that ridicules contestants. These first few skits of the night were among the most promising.
The effort put into the show was evident. The pre-recorded skits added to the show’s professionalism and showed off the creative editing skills of the crew. One of the standouts from the evening was a horror movie trailer called “The Purple Line,” in which cast members acted as detectives frantically trying to uncover the truth about the long-delayed construction project.
Having a game show sketch is to be expected in a show that emulates SNL, but the premise of “Is your waitress flirting or is she just nice?” was fresh and surprising.
UMD Alerts, styled after SNL’s popular “Weekend Update” segment, featured witty quips based on relatable campus news and a bizarre but hilarious interview with “Prosciutto Lady Alice,” a character who sued a piece of prosciutto she tripped on.
Two student stand-ups were also featured: Karan Jain and Caleigh Larkin. The comics both brought fun energy and wild stories that served as a nice refresher in between skits.
“I was laughing the entire time,” said sophomore psychology major María Teresa Bazdekis. “The stage looked incredible. The band was incredible. And of course the performers. Everything was super funny. I was really impressed.”
Musical guest Bombsticchicken performed three songs throughout the night and had an instant cool factor that drew the audience in. The live band, led by director Avi Spector, played songs like “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder and “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars in between skit transitions that had the audience singing and dancing along.
Throughout the experience, the MNL participants have formed a supportive and tight-knit community.
“I think it’s really cool to see what people are capable of when they care about each other,” MNL head writer, sketch player and senior communications and psychology major Alex Hong said.
Those who didn’t make it to the NextNOW Fest show shouldn’t panic. MNL’s next show will be put on this February and will surely be another sensation.
“There’s always something new,” Roney said. “We work even when we’re not in season, people are making new sketches, people are doing stand up and improv so our brains are always flowing.”