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Student Show Unites Divergent Campus Comedy Threads Into Irreverent Whole

By Dan Novak M.Jour. ’20

"Maryland Night Live" cast members

Photo by Taneen Momeni, courtesy of “Maryland Night Live”

“Maryland Night Live,” a showcase for UMD’s campus comedians and based on the NBC ensemble show, is the brainchild of comedians Sammy Garcia ’20 and Walker Green ’20.

A campus orientation leader picks up his ukulele and strums a jolly tune to a group of new freshmen:

Welcome to UMD…

Cause we got [redacted]
And you can [redacted]
And at the Union Shop if you wait in line,
You can get a [redacted] for [redacted].

You’ll understand if Maryland Today can’t fully reproduce the spirited ribbing the university takes—and students in the audience eat up—throughout “Maryland Night Live,” a showcase for UMD’s campus comedians and a spiritual descendant of the venerable NBC ensemble show.

MNL is the brainchild of comedians Sammy Garcia ’20 and Walker Green ’20. Green, who had transferred to Maryland after a two-year hiatus trying to break into comedy in New York and Chicago, met Garcia in a class and approached him last year with the idea of uniting the different comedy groups on campus—sketch, improv and standup—for a single show.

“We knew we wanted to create something big and new and cool,” Green said.

MNL debuted in May at the Stamp Colony Ballroom, teamed up with The Clarice to perform at NextNOW Fest in September, and took the stage a third time in November at the Stamp’s Hoff Theater. Another show is scheduled this spring.

Like SNL, it’s a massive production, involving 65 students: 17 cast members, three head writers, a host of stage and film hands and even a 19-piece band. The structure will be familiar to any SNL fan: a cold open, a “Maryland Night Live” take on Weekend Update known as (sorry, UMPD) “UMD Alerts” and a pair of musical guests.

Unlike their New York City counterparts who have the time, money and staffing to churn out an episode in a week, MNL students write, rehearse and produce the show over six weeks. For Season 2, the directors were presented with about 60 pitches and 30 scripts. After four rounds of cuts, just 12 sketches made it to the show.

The challenge was illustrated during the opening monologue in Season 2’s debut, when cast members rushed the stage to pitch outrageously bad last-minute ideas to lead writer John Hendrick ‘19, like “Genocide, the Musical” or a sketch with “two sisters. They’re witches. We give them Tourette’s. We call it ‘Twitches.’”

Green said his goal of a dynamic comedy show with high production values has required no-nonsense directors who don’t favor their friends, not to mention cast members who are serious about evoking laughs and plan to pursue comedy careers after graduation.

“These people are so talented, and they have the biggest passion,” Garcia said. “It’s not going away.”

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