The first of its kind, UT's student-produced sketch comedy show, "The Chaser," premieres today on The Volunteer Channel.
The idea for the show, which is largely the morbid brainchild of junior Sam Habib, originated when the journalism and electronic media major realized how tired he was of seeing the university's film and production equipment go widely underutilized.
"My first couple of semesters at UT, I was bored a lot until I realized being bored is the most useless thing to be, really," Habib said. "I had this idea to start a comedy club and I thought of how there's a TV station here and nobody really knows about it. So that's how the show sort of began."
A coalition of around 45 students saw promise in this idea and banded with Habib; thus, the staff of "The Chaser" was born.
"I was really lucky to have funny friends and people around me who are comic geniuses," he said. "Even the audio and crew members are hilarious. Everyone's sense of humor meshes together really well."
For Jay Brown, sophomore in advertising and appointed head writer, the show promises to fill a space that has been historically empty at UT.
"It's college humor for college students made by college students," he explained. "That hasn't really been done here before."
Brown knew he wanted to be involved as soon as close friend Habib aired the idea.
"I did a lot of theater in high school and like to think I'm relatively funny and can entertain people," Brown surmised. "We just want to make people laugh. A lot of the material is pretty raunchy."
Habib, who laments the fact that some of the content won't make it past censorship, said that while the formatting of the show could likely garner some SNL comparisons, his main intent is ingenuity.
"All of the sketches so far are ending in very morbid ways so I guess that could kind of be considered our thing, but I don't want it to fall into a specific category," he said. "I want it to be this completely original, student-created dark comedy."
Mike Wiseman, director of TVC and staff adviser for "The Chaser," sees considerable potential in the success of the show itself and in the talent of its creators.
"I think the sheer amount of time these kids have dedicated to making it happen is reason enough for people to check out the show," he said. "Nobody's forcing them to make this. It isn't a school requirement. They've been working their butts off over this show because they believe it's a great idea."
This semester, the staff of "The Chaser" has been undergoing a rigorous weekly workload of free form pitch meetings on Monday, sketch writing on Tuesday, read-throughs and role assigning on Wednesday, and studio and production time Wednesday through Monday.
Beyond entertaining his fellow students, Habib is excited by the prospect of the show actually utilizing TVC's largely neglected amenities.
"TVC's been around for years, and it's frustrating because I've always thought they could be doing so much more with their amazing equipment than they have been," he said. "The Studio broadcasts Jimmy Cheek's speeches and sports shows, like 'The Derek Dooley Show.' But that's all athletics, which is what basically runs this campus anyway. All of this equipment is owned by the Journalism Department, which I think shows a crazy lack of creativity in its usage."
"The Chaser" aims to change this while providing the university with an honest and relevant mode of expression.
"It's important because it's from the community of UT to the community of UT," Habib continued. "We're trying to localize the sketches as much as we can. People here need something they can relate to and an outlet of sorts to better the community."
"The Chaser" creator, whom Wiseman describes as having a "completely unique" sense of humor, sees comedy as being instrumental in pointing out the absurdity of life.
"Life's hilarious and often ridiculous," he said. "Why not laugh? To me most things are absurd, so I laugh at all the formalities and social norms we have."
Habib believes that this attitude would be beneficial if extended to society at large.
"What's the need for all of these formalities? It's like, you're in a business meeting and you're gonna fart and then later on in life you're gonna die," Habib said. "If people were allowed to fart in business meetings without it being frowned upon by society, then people would be like, this is ridiculous, everything we're doing here is ridiculous."
The first episode, which promises to be rife with the aforementioned sense of absurdity, airs at 9 p.m. on TVC, or campus channel 65 and digital channel 196. Sketches will also be viewable via YouTube and Vimeo.
"People should check it out because we have poured our blood into this show," Habib said. "Literal blood. Like buckets of it, right on the TV. I mean, if people watch it they watch it, you know? It'd be awesome if they do."
Brown summarizes one's reasons for watching the show more concisely.
"Watch it to be entertained," he said. "We're here to make them laugh and hopefully keep coming back for more."