Studio C: Against All Odds
The surprising success of a family-friendly sketch comedy group from Brigham Young University.
Studio C as seen on their YouTube channel homepage.
Sketch comedy show Studio C is an iceberg. On top is clean comedy for the whole family to enjoy for hours. But beneath it are huge crews, a very interesting history, piles of scrapped ideas, and hard work. According to cast member Stacey Harkey in a recent interview I had with him, “that’s how you succeed.”
“[Viewers] don’t see all of the failures. That’s our moto, we fail a lot,” says Stacey about how difficult it is to write sketches. He points that although the numbers vary, “out of three sketches that I write, one will statistically make it on the show.”
Stacey Harkey from Divine Comedy Blog post.
Harrison Collier of BYUtv agrees. Referring to live events, he says “There are times when… you’ll have mistakes on air. You’ll have things happen that you don’t plan for.” He works in the sports division and sees this all the time. In many ways, sports are similar to the struggles of the sketch team during their live recordings except that with sports, they can’t do retakes!
When it comes to writing sketches, the main cast are assisted by other writers, but the cast make the final call. Says Stacey, “We are gatekeepers. We decide what gets past the writers room, what doesn’t, but the whole time, we’re just trying to guess what people will like, what’s going to be funny to the masses.”
Besides external writers, Stacey adds that “for our live shows, we have something like 80 people working behind us.” This includes editors, a make-up team, a wardrobe team, a production team, and more.
Before all the rest of this ‘iceberg’ came along, before Studio C even existed, they were just a bunch of college kids doing sketch comedy. They were part of a club called Divine Comedy. Originally, only a few of them were there (Matt Meese, Mallory Everton, Jason Gray, and Whitney Call). These would become the core of Studio C.
The miracle is how they became big enough that even Conan O Brian would be interested in them. Their comedy group is part of a religious school called Brigham Young University, where they believe miracles happen all the time. And they may have a point. It is surprising that a completely clean and child appropriate sketch comedy team would become this famous. In fact, James Perry told Kari Kenner of the Daily Herald: “We didn’t see it getting this far and we’re glad that it’s going.”
Says Stacey: “When they started Studio C, it was kind of a big risk for BYUtv. They had never really dabbled in comedy… They were trying to start off light, so they wanted to feature the main four. They were just the guinea pigs in essence to test it.” The other 6 cast members were students at the time, and couldn’t work full-time for BYUtv. They would become full-time members by Season 5.
Studio C’s Youtube channel was a huge key to their success. As of March 2017, they have over 1,360,000 subscribers. Youtube helped them out a lot by opening opportunities for collabs and livestreams, as well as the simple fact “that people can pursue the content that they like the most.”
One of the most asked questions they seem to get is “How do you create such family friendly comedy?” The answer has been repeated over and over again. “We just write what we think is funny, and if kids love it, that’s awesome, if adults love it, that’s great, if super old people love it, that’s great too!”
Matt Meese and Stacey Harkey being interviewed by Conan, Feb. 7, 2017.
Harrison Collier further explains that “Our mission with BYUtv is to see the good in the world. And so our job is to try and make uplifting programming in a way that we can help the world around us.”
When it comes to the future of Studio C, Stacey says this “When Studio C was created, the vision for it was to make it a model like Saturday Night Live, where it introduces new people every so often, so it replenishes the cast and the writers.” Perhaps this means we will start to see new people coming in, and the current members going out, but whatever happens, we won’t say good-bye to Studio C for hopefully a long time!
-Amanda, UTVA Ambassador
Keturah, UTVA Ambassador