|Middlesex County College. |
2600 Woodbridge Ave. Edison, NJ 08818-3050
35 Years of Joyous Laughter
By Chuck O’Donnell ’91
Improvisational comedy is like taking a running leap of faith into the unknown – in front of a live audience. Luckily for Joe Bevilacqua, Jim Folly and Kenny Savoy, they have always been each others’ safety net. It didn’t take long after they met in the Theatre Department at Middlesex County College in the fall of 1978 to realize they shared a calling to make people laugh. And the harder, the better.
Soon, they were spending all their free time – even cutting some classes, truth be told – to write skits and create characters. Where the improv stopped and real life began was hard to say. Didn't matter.
They formed a comedy troupe, dubbed themselves Liquid Comedy and got ready to take the stage by storm.
In the tradition of “The Carol Burnett Show” or “I Love Lucy,” the strength of their bond and the magic of their friendship – being able to read each others’ expressions and feeding off each others’ energy – only heightened the spontaneous and sometimes unpredictable nature of the art form.
And all the students who sat and watched them perform “Mary Heartburn, Mary Heartburn” in Bunker Lounge in College Center could see it. So many people began to come to their performances that, as Mr. Savoy ’81 puts it, “We would call ourselves The Beatles.”
And why not? When comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld and Gilbert Gottfried came to perform at the school, Liquid Comedy would do “Gilligan’s Elevator” in between their acts.
|photo, circa 1978, from left: |
Jim Folly, Tom Giannazzo,
Joe Bevilacqua, Gary Bihler
and Kenny Savoy.
“I think we just felt calm and natural with each other so there was no pretense,” Mr. Bevilacqua ’80 said. “None of us were trying to be better than the other. There’s no ego. We’re not looking for compliments. We’re not trying to impress each other.
“We’re just being and it comes out and it fits like a puzzle. Like a hand in a glove.” Many years have passed since their college days. The wrinkles on their faces are like road maps of the places life has taken them. But through it all – births, deaths, illness, everything – their friendships have never wavered and their chemistry has never waned.
At the start of each episode, the off-key strains of the blaring bugle is a call to order for the off-beat array of characters living at Camp Waterlogg.
Sgt. Lefty, Ellis the Boatkeeper, Chef Ron Drysdale, Stinky, Lil Jimmy, Butch and all the others are brought to life by the voice acting of Mr. Bevilacqua, Mr. Folly and Mr. Savoy. Two founding members of Liquid Comedy – Gary Bihler and Tom Giannazzo – no longer perform with the group, but Mr. Bevilacqua’s wife, Lorie Kellogg, has stepped in. She does the voices of Olive Pitts, Lkie and many others.
|Jim Folly, Lorie Kellogg, |
Joe Bevilacqua and Kenny Savoy.
“The culture has gotten very angry and afraid,” Mr. Bevilacqua said. “Everyone wants to watch shows about people doing harm to each other. Everything is very dark on television and in movies. There’s not a lot of happy stuff going on. You can see that as, ‘Oh, God, we’re so depressed and I can’t do anything about it.’ Or you can see it as an opportunity to be different.”
Mr. Bevilacqua will sometimes enlist the help of some of the comedians he’s met over the years to join them on the show. Al Franken and Rick Overton, among others, have cropped up on past episodes.
Pankin: “Do you know how much money I’ve already put (from) Pankin Productions into the Lefty story? Now you’re telling me this was a kitchen peeler accident! You understand, that means I have no reason to make this movie anymore.” Sgt. Lefty: “Gee, does this mean I’m not going to get my robotic arm?”
Pankin: “I don’t care about your robotic arm. I’m a little more concerned about the $500,000 I’ve already put into the movie, which is gone. It’s not even tax-deductible any more!”
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Other characters who appear on “The Comedy-O-Rama Hour” can trace their origins back to MCC.
Mr. Folly has trouble remembering if he’s supposed to be playing Marcello or Luigi. Either way, that act, and the characters, are still alive today.
So are their memories of MCC. The zenith of their time at MCC may have been when they put on “The New Looney Tunes Show,” with spoofs and skits influenced by everything from Saturday morning cartoons to “Saturday Night Live.”
After a few years, one by one, the members of Liquid Comedy graduated from MCC. Mr. Bevilacqua has made a living doing everything from extra work on TV to audio book reading. Mr. Savoy plays the stock market. Mr. Folly works with Youth Stages, a children’s theater company based in
Mr. Bevilacqua has been plotting a return engagement on the stage at MCC.
Truth is, life hasn’t been one long spoof. Sure, there have been a lot of laughs, but also some tears. Through it all, these three friends have stuck together. “We’ve suffered through some tragedies but we’ve also had some great things happen,” Mr. Folly said. “So it’s not just about us doing comedy, it’s about us being human beings and being friends and looking out for each other.”
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