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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Calvin Cole attributes his comedy roots to his alma mater, UF.

On March 10 and 11, his sketch-comedy group, Big Britches, will be one of more than 60 sketch-comedy acts from across North America who will perform at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival. The 12th annual sketch-comedy festival is a 12-day event that started Wednesday.

His college comedic career started with a stand-up performance during a protégé show for those who had never done stand-up before. His love for comedy continued to grow throughout his time in Gainesville and culminated his senior year when he was voted America’s Funniest College Student in 2010, representing UF in a national NCAA March Madness-style comedy tournament.

In 2010, UF was one of the final four teams at Rooftop Comedy’s National College Comedy Competition, which started with 32 schools. The tournament was run completely online, where schools uploaded videos of their routines and participants could vote for their favorites.

That year, the comedy team won the tournament, and Cole was nominated MVP of his team. The final four teams each sent their MVP to perform at the TBS Just For Laughs Chicago comedy festival, where Cole was awarded the top honor — America’s Funniest College Student.

“My comedy career is very much tied up in school,” Cole, 28, said.

At UF, Cole co-founded the University Stand-Up Comedy Club, which helps students develop their talent.

It was there he met Tim Keck, who would soon become one of his closest friends. Keck was one of the three members who joined Cole at Rooftop Comedy’s National College Comedy Competition in Aspen, Colorado.

Upon first interaction, Keck, a UF alumnus, described Cole as intimidating but incredibly helpful.

“He really gave me a lot of advice on comedy and kind of took me under his wing,” Keck said.

Keck explained Cole as a storyteller. He said Cole likes taking the audience on a journey together.

Keck, a freelance comedian in New York, said he likely wouldn’t be doing comedy at all without Cole’s help.

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“He was motivating me back then, and he’s still motivating me now by continuing to push himself, Keck said. “He’s really found his niche, and I appreciate that.”

Cole moved to New York City after graduating in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in English and focus in film studies. There, he started enrolling in classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade and met the members who would form his sketch comedy group, Big Britches.

The comedy quartet consists of Cole, Emily Duncan, Jon Hudson and Kantad Svendsgaard. Though they don’t perform directly through UCB Comedy, their core training comes from the legendary improvisational and sketch comedy group in New York City.

Big Britches has done comedy together for a few years now. They previously hosted, produced, booked and performed a weekly improv show. When they’re not spending three to five days a week rehearsing material for the upcoming festival, they are focusing on putting together a play that will open in New York City.

“Most of us have writing backgrounds as well, and we wanted to flex that muscle a little bit,” he said.

The group’s sketch-writing process starts with collaboration. The first step is to pitch individual ideas. They give each other feedback on outlines and specific jokes, and then they separate to write the finished products. After they have a drafted sketch, members edit and polish each piece. Whoever mainly writes the sketch will typically cast it.

After working together for so long, the group has developed a shared sense of humor, Cole said. They’re able to take their different perspectives on life and turn it into a sketch they know the rest of the group will find funny.

Cole said all of the members of Big Britches grew up watching and absorbing all forms of comedy. He said they have similar tastes in what they appreciate, which influences their writing.

“You get that sense of what everyone else finds funny, and you end up playing to that because these are the people you end up hanging out with and you want to make them laugh,” he said.

Performing is their favorite aspect, Cole said. The shows themselves are what they look forward to most.

This is their first time at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival. Although they don’t know what to expect yet, heading to Canada for this show allows the troupe to meet people from all over North America who share a common passion, Cole said.

“Just being immersed in a comedy environment like that is really cool,” he said.

Each member has a full-time job in addition to their work with the group. Cole is an operations manager at a staffing company.

“That’s probably the least interesting thing about me,” he said.

He also expanded his comedic platform with an iTunes podcast he recently started with his fiance. The podcast, Cinestalgia, has comedic guests watch a movie from their childhood and then discuss it.

This will be Big Britches’ second time performing in Canada. They participated in the Montreal Sketch Fest last year.

“We’re excited about being involved in something that’s so meticulously run,” he said. “It should be exciting.”

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