Courtney Kassel and D.J. Mausner of BYOJ

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This week in the spotlight is Courtney Kassel and D.J. Mausner from Bring Your Own Juice! These two hilarious ladies are changing the comedy game- not only within the McGill community but in Montreal as a whole. Keep reading to find out more about where they get their inspiration and how you can tap into your comedic side!

 

Midanna de Almada for Her Campus McGill (HC McGill): What is BYOJ?

Courtney Kassel (CK): BYOJ stands for Bring Your Own Juice. It is McGill’s only live sketch comedy group. We have been around for over four years and D.J. and I both became involved in its second year. It was founded within TVM: Student Television at McGill as a video sketch comedy group and has only continued to evolve and grow since then. Everyone involved is both a writer and a performer; in the span of a month we write, cast, rehearse, and perform the show. The production is put on every night for a full weekend.

 

HC McGill: What are your roles within BYOJ?

CK: This year my position has been as head writer.

D.J. Mausner (DJ): I am the producer. We also have a marketing co-ordinator, Tatyana Olal, and director, Matthew Robert, who have done so much to allow this production to happen.

 

HC McGill: Why did you guys decide to join BYOJ?

DJ: I know in my case I have done comedy since I was 16, but I had been focusing on stand up and improvisational comedy. I had met some of the previous co-ordinators through McGill Improv and they asked me to check out BYOJ to decide if I liked it. I was immediately drawn to the people and the atmosphere; I love what BYOJ stands for. Everyone comes to the table with different experiences, different styles of comedy, and then we work together to showcase the best of everyone’s types of comedy.

CK: My story is similar. I have been interested in comedy since a young age. I started in improv and sketch comedy. When deciding on a university I knew I wanted there to be a comedy scene, but when I decided on McGill that was sidelined until the end of my first year. I decided to find my niche and sought out comedy again. In my second year, I became involved with various comedy groups on campus, and through auditions and meeting people I wound up at BYOJ. I remember walking into the first meeting and the tone was set- it was a really welcoming environment, which is something we have strived to carry out through the years.

 

HC McGill: What do you think are some of the factors that contribute to the popularity you guys are experiencing?

DJ: Equity is one of our main concerns, and I think that has made us really accessible. There is a lot of comedy that is inaccessible to other people because often the punch lines of jokes are at the expense of others- punching down on people’s identities or experiences. Not only does McGill have an expectation of equity, but within our cast and crew all of us make an effort to create this space that is congenial. I believe in diverse comedy, and I think we are popular among students because we create comedic content that is not only fun but also influenced by our own views and comedic interests. This creates an element of relatability. We make some absurd comedy that does not feel like it is over-reaching because it comes from what we, as students, find funny!

CK: Just to add onto that, because we are all students, you get content everyone can relate to. Some parents come and they do not really understand everything, but every McGill student is like “YES” because the comedy is relatable. It is creating content everyone can access and understand, but also that they can also enjoy.

 

HC McGill: Do you have any suggestions for people who want to get involved?

CK: I think with comedy in general there is an amazing scene in Montreal. My first piece of advice is to seek it out and to do it. There is more than what meets the eye. Within Montreal there is a stand-up scene and a sketch scene, and a lot of them are coming into themselves now. If you want to do it- You. Can. Do. It. It just takes a little effort, but there are resources and BYOJ can act as one of those resources.

DJ: On campus alone, Cultural Studies offer theory that can inform comedy. Outside of academics, there are so many workshops and performances: the McGill Improv Club that really helps people grasp the basics of comedy, TVM can help with video sketch, Blue Dog Bar has a mic called There’s Something Funny Going On on Mondays, Ladies and Gentleman have a mic at Shaika Cafe on Tuesdays, Burritoville has a mic on Wednesdays. There are fantastic venues like Comedy Works and the Comedy Nest. Really, the list goes on! Theatre Sainte-Catherine and Montreal Improv Theatre have improv comedy workshops you can participate in and shows you can watch; they really cultivate the MTL sketch comedy scene by encouraging local troupes to practice and put on workshops. The comedy collective, the Brunch Club, brings in great comedians and puts on fantastic shows. There is so much happening for those who are interested in comedy, and everyone is extremely welcoming and inviting.

CK and DJ: For BYOJ specifically, we recruit once a year; applications go out in December, and you audition in January. We do not necessarily look for experience- amazing writers or actors who have starred in tons of plays. Some people have a lot of experience and some have none- experience is not the deciding factor. We are looking for people who have the passion, the drive and the time. You have to want to work together with talented and supportive people, and also care about collaborative teamwork and equity. A piece of advice is, if you see an ad and get excited, do it! Do not be intimidated, everyone has to start somewhere! If you love comedy, apply!

 

HC McGill: Comedy has historically been a male dominated field. How is that changing?

CK and DJ: Historically, comedy in general and BYOJ specifically, has appeared predominantly male. This year, only three members of our ten-member cast are males! In comedy there is this age-old joke of ‘when did women become funny?’ (which is ridiculous because we are hilarious!) but that is quickly evolving and changing. There is a place for women in comedy- especially on campus and within BYOJ. We hope assumptions of comedy being male dominated does not hold people back or deter them because it is not representative of comedy today, particularly at McGill. In fact, a lot of the comedy we have done at McGill actually favors females in terms of numbers. It is so exciting to work with such driven people and feel like you are part of the changing demographic as we are helping to change the perception of what comedy looks like, sounds like, and is.   

 

 

You can keep up-to-date with everything BYOJ by liking their Facebook page

Photos provided by the interviewees