by Scott Reilly
It all started with a simple idea by Niagara student Jordan Hernandez. Why couldn't Niagara University have an "SNL"-esque sketch comedy show by students, for students? That was how "Tuesday Night Live" was born. "Tuesday Night Live," or "TNL," is the newest standard for student entertainment at NU, and it only seems to be growing.
"TNL" is a comedy show that began in the fall of 2012, themed around the life of an average Niagara student. Each show featured both live and pre-shot segments with a cast made up entirely of Niagara University students. With sketches and videos about the college's majors and college nightlife, "TNL" has managed to attract quite a bit of attention around campus.
"Our goal of the show is to make the show fun and appealing to the NU students and faculty," said "TNL" castmember Cody Heimbrock. "Since all of our audience live on campus or go to the school here, we had to make the sketches relatable to the audience so we would in turn receive laughs."
The most impressive aspect of the show just may be how well it knows its audience. With a Niagara University theme, "TNL" allows students to escape from the stress of the school week and see the funny side of life on Niagara's campus.
"We are really in it just to get laughs," said castmember John Kasprzak. "There is not much satire behind it. We just want people to come to the show so they can enjoy themselves and get a break from the classes and stress and other stuff."
"We write things not only we thought to be funny, but what we would think the audience would find funny," Heimbrock said.
The show has managed to relate to the students and develop a standing on campus as a go-to piece of entertainment in nearly no time at all. After its first show sold out, "TNL" has had to start doing two shows each night due to overwhelming popularity. In fact, the most recent performance sold out both shows, with even more people left standing at the door.
"NU is a great comedy venue, especially with Leary Theatre," Kasprzak said. "It makes it easy to put on good shows."
"TNL's" most recent show stuck to the formula laid out from the beginning. Sketches and videos were themed around being a college student, with sketches about the going to the gym and about clubbing. The audiences in the sold-out Leary Theater seemed to love every minute of it.
"The audience's reaction was great!" Heimbrock said. "When the audience's reaction is good and we receive laughs, it makes us feel real good as a troupe. It made us feel like we did our jobs well."
"We always get great laughs and have had very good turnouts from the student body since we started back in 2012," Kasprzak said. "The show has grown a lot since I joined."
The success of "TNL" may be a sign of a growing comedy scene on Niagara's campus. In recent years, the school has been opting more and more to bring in comedy acts as opposed to musicians for student shows. The school has hosted the likes of Seth Meyers, Rob Schneider, Jay Pharoah, and Mike Birbiglia, all of which received good turnout from students. This comes as no shock to anyone who sees the kinds of crowds "TNL" attracts.
Even the surrounding Niagara Falls and Buffalo areas have been getting more and more big-name comedians to bring their talents to Western New York. Seneca Niagara Casino will soon host George Lopez and Jeff Dunham, each of whom had a national television show in the past five years. Buffalo's Helium comedy club has hosted the likes of Michael Ian Black from MTV's "The State," and Judah Friedlander from "30 Rock" in the past few months. Every week, it seems, another famous name in comedy comes to the area.
So, is Niagara Falls becoming a comedy destination? Is it a comedy town?
It may not be yet, but it certainly is growing. "TNL's" success shows young people in the area are interested in comedy. More so, we see the kinds of comedic talent that has been cultivated in the wake of Niagara's new emphasis on comedy. NU has brought in comedians, and suddenly the school's young comedians, such as the "TNL" cast, have something to study and something around which to hone their craft.
If the show keeps growing as it has since it first donned Leary Theater's stage, NU just may be at the forefront of the Western New York comedy revolution.