Call Westlands, one of Sarah Lawrence College’s newest student-run performance groups, was born out of rejection: “[Four of us] had all auditioned for Lampoon and we didn’t get in,” explained member Amara Greco (‘19), club alias “The Goth One.” “I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was feeling kind of frustrated with having no comedic outlet. If I didn’t get into Lampoon, I couldn’t get into anything else because there are no other opportunities on campus. So this was kind of doing something for ourselves, and it didn’t matter if it was bad or of if it was good, or if people liked it or not.”
The comedy sketch troupe came to life in September, on a night when the majority of the soon to be members had gathered in The Pub. What started as a casual dinner turned into a three hour discussion about forming Call Westlands. Today the group is dedicated to writing, performing, filming and editing their own comedic sketches. The troupe members—Greco, Katy Greskovich (‘19), Austen Halpern-Graser (‘19), Jorry Jenkins-Snaith (‘19), Jenny Hong (‘19), Matt Landry-McWilliams (‘19), and their newest member Khalifah Jamison ('19)—meet weekly to brainstorm, workshop and produce original sketches.
Greskovich, alias “The Optimistic One,” agreed that there were not enough opportunities on campus for students interested in comedy. “[Lampoon] is clearly a very exclusive group, but there are so many more people on this campus who have a comedy heart, a comedy jewel to let shine. We want this group to be functional, but we also don’t want it to be exclusive at all, and we want it to be the opportunity for students to create comedy that doesn’t have to go through the department— or anyone else.”
Beyond aiming to create an inclusive comedy group, the Call Westlands members were also keen to produce sketches rather than improv— an emphasis that is setting the group apart: “We specifically wanted to do sketch comedy; we didn’t ever want to seem like we were competing with Lampoon, because the majority of what they do is improv,” explained Landry-McWilliams, alias “The Gay One.” “But some people who are not as [informed about] our group think that we are just salty people who didn’t get into Lampoon,” he added with a laugh.
The group’s first live show took place on Oct. 20 and was a huge success. While initially worried that people would not enjoy their sense of humor, the members were pleased by the positive response to the sketches.
“I was satisfied. We had a great turn-out; we filled the audience,” Greskovitch reported. "The support we got was really great. I think for some people we definitely put out a funky sense of humor. But not one sketch bombed, necessarily, in my mind."
“I’m proud of everybody for stretching their limits,” Greco said. “Jenny was definitely very uncomfortable with being an actor, and she still did it. I’m sure if most people had the choice, they would choose for someone else act in it, but we didn’t really have that option. Everyone was just so committed to the group that they just decided to do it.”
In spite of their warm reception, many of the current members have pointed out that Call Westlands is still in flux; they are open to the idea of more students joining, but aren’t sure how the specifics will play out. Halpern-Graser, alias “The One Who Looks Like a Squirrel,” admitted: “Right now we are pretty formless. I feel like we are still trying to find our voice as a group.”
“I love the idea of new members joining,” Landry-McWilliams said, ”We want this to be an outlet for comedy for our school, and a good collaborative place to really work out ideas and to build on ourselves.”
While most of the current members are studying film or theatre at SLC, the group wants to encourage students of all disciplines to participate: “I think that [including different areas of study] helps create a more cohesive whole,” Halpern-Graser explained, "I feel like you need people from all walks of life to make a family.”
And while the membership process will not be as strict as Lampoon’s, Call Westlands will have some guidelines.
“At least for people who are acting in shows, we would want auditions for it, but inherently it can’t be as exclusive as Lampoon. They only have a certain number of spots that you can be let into. With us, that’s not the case,” Greco said.
Though there are no specific requirements according to Greskovich and Greco, students who are interested have to demonstrate commitment, passion and collaboration.
Call Westlands plans to produce one or two more videos this semester and is looking forward to tightening their lineup for the future. “Next semester, hopefully, you’ll see a much more official group,” Landry-McWilliams said.
Alexa Di Luca ‘19