On the resumés of the members of the Harvard Sailing Team, under “special skills,” you will find such qualities as “charm,” “sarcasm,” and “can insult people in Yiddish.” While these may also be qualities of certain Ivy-League mariners, these are actually the documented gifts of a sketch comedy team, most of whose members hail from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
The team is comprised of five women and four men, dressed in prim sweaters but with enough edge to have their shirttails hanging out. One would think they have a product placement deal with Converse, as they are all consistently clad in Chuck Taylors.
Their dramatic chops have been exercised extensively, each of them performing in comedic productions (obviously), plays, and films (including Little Children and The Truth About Cats and Dogs). They’ve been awarded a Time Out NY “Don’t Miss” pick of the week and “Red Star Recommendation” and a New York Newsday “Cool To Do Comedy Choice.”
HST cofounders Chris Smith (who refers to himself as the “Captain” of the team) and Billy Scafuri started the group, then were joined by friends from Smith’s alma mater. Smith, Scafuri, and mate Adam Lustick write most of the sketches, with Smith doing much of the directing. “The whole objective is to make it as stress-free and fun as possible,” Smith says. And for all the rehearsing they do, they still like to shake things up and improvise sometimes, as long as it’s “in the confines of the sketch or the joke.”
Their clean-cut image is a reflection of their comedy. Harvard Sailing Team is “a goofy name that encapsulates in some strange way what we’re about.”
They have a policy of not cursing on stage. “Traditionally, sketch comedy is a group of four or five guys trying to find out how many jokes you can stuff into a few minutes,” says Smith, “and if you have to resort to the cheap stuff, you resort to the cheap stuff. We like for the comedy to come from the absurd realities of everyday life … We don’t try to make things that are not so funny, funny by adding curse words.
“It all goes back to being accessible,” he adds. HST will be performing at a bar mitzvah next week. “We wanted to be able to invite our parents to the shows, and our young cousins … to include everybody.”
The group was recommended by Alex Zalben of Elephant Larry to perform at the Charleston Comedy Festival; scheduling conflicts prevented their appearance, so now they’re a part of Piccolo Fringe.
HARVARD SAILING TEAM • Piccolo Spoleto’s Piccolo Fringe • $15 • May 27 at 9:30 p.m; May 28 at 8 p.m.; May 29 at 9 p.m.; May 30 at 7 p.m.; May 31 at 6 p.m. • (1 hour) • Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St. • 554-6060
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