Jared Shores (producer and co-founder of Studio C) pulled up the BYUtv analytics during our mid-November interview. The comedy program’s most-viewed sketch to date was “Peeta’s Song” (part of their “Hunger Games” trilogy) with just shy of 1 million views. When they hit that seven-digit milestone, this sketch comedy team planned to have a celebratory pizza party.
What a difference a week makes.
Seven days later, I returned to the BYU Broadcasting Building for one-on-one interviews with the 10-member cast. The morning I put my visitor badge back on, Studio C’s newly released “Top Soccer Shootout Ever with Scott Sterling” hit more than 10 million views. Cast member Natalie Madsen emailed the tight-knit team: “Since we hit 10 million, can we get two toppings?”
This young cast (oldest is 31) was first outfitted with celebrity status in 2012 when Season 1 created a laugh track among Mormons and beyond. And now the Studio C team — who all got their squeaky clean chops in BYU’s student-run Divine Comedy — say their biggest win in life is getting paid to keep a straight face while others cheer at their family-friendly entertainment. Score!
Studio C has five seasons in the record books and the YouTube archives, and now the cast of 10 (plus a producer) all work full-time for BYU Broadcasting — which is no laughing matter.
“We all did live sketch comedy as students,” says Matt Meese, who first pitched the TV idea to producer Jared Shores at BYUtv. “Back then we would say things like, ‘How crazy would it be if we could do this for a living and keep performing together?’”
Matt and Jared created a concept that worked with high-energy actors, creatively clean writers and a low budget. BYU smiled on the idea and granted the team a rookie season.
Four to 10
Initially, the cast had four main faces — Matt (who continues to be the head writer), Mallory Everton, Jason Gray and Whitney Call.
“With Season 5, we broke down that idea of four,” Jared says. “We wouldn’t be where we are without Lobster Bisque, which was created and played by James Perry. Each of the 10 have strong talents and different flavors.”
For example, in the Hunger Games parodies, Matt didn’t play the “game.”
“We originally had Matt as Peeta, but he didn’t give us the vibe we wanted,” Jared says. “Plus, our audience has a unique relationship with Matt — they don’t want to make fun of him.”
So Stephen Meek switched from playing Caesar to portraying Peeta, and the rest is YouTube history in a three-part series. In fact, Studio C was putting all of its marketing and social media “eggs” in the Hunger Games basket. Then Scott Sterling broke his nose in the “Top Soccer Shootout,” and the crowd went wild on digital devices worldwide.
Matt wrote the Scott Sterling soccer script for Season 5, and the South Field at BYU was reserved for the overnight filming in September. Facebook fans became fans in the stands, and the three girls on the cast were given the night off. The only detail left undone? Telling the rest of the cast that the goalie’s name was Scott Sterling.
“We were cheering for Matt by name the whole night, and when we were finally carrying him off on the stretcher, he said, ‘By the way, my character’s name is Scott Sterling!’” James recalls.
The cast and die-hard fans weren’t the only ones watching Matt/Scott get bloodied and taken off the field by his trainer like “a mustached lion dragging a gazelle through the Serengeti.”
Cops arrived at the field after being called about excessive noise after midnight, but the filming (a few decibels lower) continued until wrapping up around 3 a.m.
“We basically screamed for six hours,” Stephen says.
Jared said the filming actually went quicker and smoother than expected. And — no surprise — it was also fun.
“In between takes, we would run over to the crowd and raffle things off,” Adam Berg says. “The fans were happy and energetic.”
So was the cast. Jason Gray — who the whole cast agrees is hands-down, hands-up most competitive — wouldn’t stay away from the soccer ball, even though the directors kept asking him to.
“If there’s a ball, I’m going to bounce it, dribble it or throw it,” Jason says.
He’ll also launch it at Matt’s face, which is how the closeup shots of Scott’s mangled nose were taken — but with a soft, lightweight plastic ball. Computer graphics added the ball in the wide shots. BYU soccer players kicked a real ball against a green board so Studio C techs could get the physics right.
“We wanted to keep surprising viewers until the end with how the ball keeps hitting me, but my draft had the last shot being the one with me on the chair,” Matt says. “Stephen bumped it up a little with his idea of having the last shot bounce back off the goalpost and hit me on the ground.”
In between takes, Matt would head back to makeup to add more blood and eventually a prosthetic broken nose.
Afterwards, the cast stayed to sign balls for the fans. And then they moved on to another sketch the next day.
“The success of Scott Sterling is a huge surprise,” says Whitney Call, whose husband, Stephen, is in the sketch as a teammate but then heard as a British announcers in the final cut. “This was just going to be one of our digital shorts we planned to throw in the mix. It’s silly slapstick, and I’m so happy that it was a big hit.”
Thanks a million
The Studio C cast was sitting in a pitch meeting in November when the Scott Sterling video was closing in on a million views. Adam was checking the real-time YouTube analytics while they edited scripts. Every 15 minutes, they’d ask for an update.
“It went up 50,000 while I was in the bathroom,” Whitney says.
The video was being viewed 2,000 times a minute. Then 4,000. The cast watched it go from 1 million to 3 million to 6 million views. And counting. At press time, the video was at 16,858,494 views.
Big sites like Bleacher Report posted the piece, and celebrities like Glen Rhee tweeted about it.
“We’ve watched ‘The Walking Dead’ together as a cast, so that was a big deal to get on the radar for people and sites that hadn’t heard of Studio C,” Matt says.
Jared says it was one of those moments when they said, “Wait, are we really that big of a deal? In some ways, Studio C still feels small and local. But then I see chatter about it nationally, and I’m like, ‘Wait, are we talking about the same thing?’”
Spread goodness and silliness
Studio C had top-billing at the Stadium of Fire 2014 along with Carrie Underwood.
“Stadium of Fire was big for us — in some ways it felt too big,” Jared says about the cast performing for 40,000 in the stadium and more than 100 countries over the airwaves.
Another milestone moment for Team C was when President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) was in the house.
“He came to Provo to check on the Provo City Center Temple, and he asked if he could swing by for a visit,” Jared says. “He came to our tech rehearsal, and the fact that we had garnered his eye felt big to us.”
The next “big thing” will be RootsTech on Feb. 14, where the cast will be performing for 7,000, along with other headliners Laura Bush, Donny Osmond and David Archuleta.
“We usually shy away from doing live stuff because it is risky to be in someone else’s playground,” Jared says. “If the audio guy misses a cue and dumps a setup line or joke, it flubs the whole thing. A tech crew is just as important to pay off a joke in the right way.”
Although Studio C is most popular in “the Mormon belt,” the goal is to continue breaking through that barrier.
“BYUtv has to deal with two misconceptions,” says Jared, who also works on other projects such as “Granite Flats.” “First, BYUtv sounds like a Mormon thing. Second, it sounds like a college channel.”
With social media and online platforms, the cast gets real-time feedback on how they are doing in broadening their fan base by hearing common comments such as, “I’m not Mormon, but I love watching you guys.”
The channel — and the LDS Church as a whole — sees the funny faces as a potential missionary tool.
“Members don’t really consider sharing a Studio C sketch as a pushy missionary effort,” Jared says. “Teenagers find it easier to share one of our videos than a Bible message.”
But the scripts are not overtly religious and contain very few references to quirky LDS culture.
“My goal is to spread funny things, and if that happens to link back to the church, that’s great,” says Natalie Madsen.
Goals beyond goalies
Jared’s goal as producer and team member of the BYUtv community at large is to grow an audience with consistently higher viewership, reach and replay.
“The mission I’ve been given is to provide entertainment that families can watch together, and once in a while to include a thought-provoking idea or message,” Jared says. “We’ve tackled peer pressure, bullying, money management and violent video games, for example.”
But not everyone wants comedy with a slice of morality.
“Whenever we have overt messages —which I still think are subtle — people fight back a little bit. With our video game sketch, Jason gets run over by a car and beats some people up. Some viewers criticized us by saying, ‘I can’t believe you blew up a baby seal with a bazooka,’ and we’re like, ‘Can’t you see what we’re saying? Your 10-year-olds are playing games where they show blood and say vulgar words!’ The truth is, we all need to take a closer look at our video game habits, and we tried to make that point through humor.”
In many ways, Jared says Studio C — and even BYUtv — is still in an adolescent phase.
“We have this tool. Now how powerful can this network actually be? And what is the best way to use it?” Jared asks himself.
Studio C’s Season 6 will begin airing in September 2015, with a 20-episode run. This is a plot twist as the Studio C seasons have previously been shorter and filmed twice a year. Production time in the BYU Broadcasting Building will be easier to come by during the summer, which is the slowest time for BYU sports programming.
“In the past, we’ve had to wake up the machine twice a year,” Jared says. “It takes three to four weeks to gear up, bring in the set, and get everyone in show mode.”
The cast says the second filming of each season has been their slam dunk, while the third night has been cursed. Jeremy Warner’s wife went into labor during Show 3, and he had to leave. The toughest audiences have landed in seats on Show 3. On another third performance night, the cast kept missing lines and couldn’t get through a sketch.
Can you do the one where …
Just as Matt Meese and Scott Sterling have become interchangeable monikers, other Studio C characters have taken on a life of their own. Matt is also known as a wing-slinging, white-wearing Shoulder Angel — in fact, the first pair of angel wings Matt wore hang on Jared’s office wall.
“It reminds me of where we started,” Jared says. “Everything first clung onto a simple pair of wings and a silly halo and a dude climbing a shoulder — I also keep them on my wall because I do not want this prop get lost.”
Shoulder Angel is returning in Season 6, but not because of audience demand (although that is climbing).
“We don’t write sketches or include characters just because people want us to,” Jared says. “We don’t want to do Lobster Bisque or Ann or the Shoulder Angel and have it feel forced. In Season 6, Jason wrote a fun idea to bring Shoulder Angel back. It feels very different.”
With Matt and the rest of his comedy crew flexing their talent in 80 sketches each season, fans worry that the cast (especially Matt) will trade C to be closer to one of the seas.
“Nobody is more loyal to the show than Matt,” Jared says. “All of us feel blessed to do what we do and work with who we work with. We have a mission and a goal. Right now we are all happy to live in Provo and work together.”
Could one of the cast get picked up for a bigger stage?
“Totally, but I don’t know if they would jump at the first offer,” Jared says. “If we quit now, we’d be left with this thought of wondering what it could have been. Whatever ‘it’ is, we’re not there yet.”
Home state: Arizona
BYU degree: Psychology
LDS mission: Chicago
Family status: Single
Ironically, Matt got serious about comedy because of soccer. He broke his leg playing mid-fielder in a 2006 intramural soccer game at BYU and elected not to take classes that summer while he was on the mend.
“I was sitting there thinking about acting I had done in the past,” Matt says. “It lifted my spirits, and I decided to change course and start acting again.”
Now Matt is known as the lead actor, head writer and resident “grandpa” (he’s the oldest at 31) for Studio C, which he created along with producer Jared Shores. His latest claim to fame is as script writer and bloody star of the Scott Sterling sketch.
“I named this character Scott after a good friend I’ve done comedy with,” Matt says. “My own name is alliterate, which I like, so I decided to do the same for Scott and add a second ‘S’ with ‘Sterling.’”
Known best as the Shoulder Angel, this 130-pound comedic heavyweight has always been strong at pull-ups, and now he also throws in a little P90X and yoga to stay fit for his white-spandex role. Matt has taught himself to balance on the shoulder in such a way that his weight is distributed properly without requiring back surgery for his castmate.
“The first time I presented the Shoulder Angel sketch in Divine Comedy, I said, ‘This works in my mind. Let’s see if we can make it work on stage,’” he says.
Matt’s most difficult winged-climb to date was Shawn Bradley.
“I climbed up him, and then I went halfway down. The second climb back up was exhausting,” he says.
Matt’s penchant for costumes and voice inflections started in elementary school, where he remembers being overwhelmed by having to memorize four minutes of material and being burdened with a perennial second-place ribbon.
“I loved being in front of an audience back then, but life gets in the way and makes you think your dreams are stupid — until you break your leg and come back around and realize what’s important to you,” he says.
With a healing leg and newfound confidence thanks to his LDS mission in Chicago, Matt landed a spot on Divine Comedy, along with his sister, Lauren Meese.
For his day job, Matt worked at the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum all through college and got a staff job after he graduated.
“Staying at the museum made a lot of people worry I wasn’t moving on with my life,” Matt says. “But if I hadn’t stayed in Provo, there wouldn’t be a Studio C. I was in the right place, but it wasn’t the right time yet.”
Matt high-fives this life lesson of trusting instincts.
“There was no way of knowing what was going to happen because I stayed,” he said. “I didn’t have to know. I just had to know enough.”
When he transitioned to working full time for Studio C, Matt took with him random animal facts such as: If you eat a polar bear liver, you will die because they are so rich in Vitamin A. (Random magazine fact: A Bean Museum specimen is in the “Awkward Family Photo” on page 25.)
“Studio C is my dream job,” Matt says. “I love what the show does for families, and I love working with these people.”
Matt, Mallory, Jason and Whitney started out writing the sketches and continue to be the most prolific writers. But the rest of the cast has written much of upcoming Season 6. About 80 sketches get chosen and produced each season, while 150-160 get written. “It’s nice for us to have twice the amount we need so we can pick the best,” Jared says.
Sports resume: Football, soccer, track, hurdles and pole vault. “Vaulting is the dumbest fun you can have,” Matt says. His senior year he did a play and set sports aside.
Life coaches: “My dad taught me public speaking skills like projection. He’s still a huge influence. You have to be grateful for people who see more in you than you see in yourself. Eventually, their belief in you sticks and your belief in yourself starts to grow.”
Big wins: His senior year of high school, Matt and a friend joined the speech team right before the state tournament and took first in the competition. “When you have nothing to lose, it’s easy.”
Biggest loss: Matt’s grandpa was his “biggest fan” and would tell others, “You’re going to know my grandson one day.” He died before Studio C. “But I have a strong feeling he’s still proud of me,” Matt says.
Little known, little angel facts: The first Shoulder Angel episodes for Studio C have Matt wearing white robes. “The idea lost some of its zest because you can’t see the struggle or the weird way I move.” Now the angel wears a form-fitting white little ditty. But it’s not the least comfortable costume — that distinction goes to Captain Literally.
Big roles: Matt played “Mitch” in the two-man showing of “Tuesdays with Morrie” at BYU. He also starred in “Saints and Soldiers: The Void,” his first feature film.
Favorite sketches: “I like ‘Dana’s Dead’ because we see Adam get sprayed in the face so many times. I also like ones I’m not in because I have no idea how they went until I see the finished product. They have more replay value for me because I didn’t spend all day filming it.”
First job: Paper boy in Phoenix
Fans: “The whole cast started in this together, so we talk about how weird it is to be somewhat well-known. When Jason’s wife was in labor, somebody asked to take a picture with him. Our studio audience is only 200, so that’s all the people we actually see. But when we go about our lives, we realize the breadth of who is watching the show. If we go out as a group, we’re toast.”
Home state: Idaho
BYU degree: Film
LDS mission: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Family status: Married and father of one
Jeremy compares his role on Studio C to that of former NBA forward Detlef Schrempf.
“I’m not the Michael Jordan of this team,” Jeremy says.
But he has played a little bit of basketball, including a season-ending breakage of his glasses on a BYU court. Perhaps his biggest sports highlight to date is playing the “trainer” for Scott Sterling.
“I ran back and forth from the sidelines to check on Matt (Scott) about 25 times, but you only see me run out there half-way one time,” he says. “My commitment to the run got lost in editing.”
But his commitment to facial hair gets lost on nobody. Jeremy’s signature move is his mustache, which he first grew at age 17. (His stache is even on his first BYU Student ID card.) Then he shaved clean to serve an LDS mission and has only shaved once since 2008 — it was October 2009 and he did it for a short film. Now he lets the Studio C hair professionals manicure his manliness.
“I can’t even draw a straight line,” he says. “I don’t want to accidentally screw it up. But I do wash it, shampoo it and condition it. I sound like a diva, but I’m not.”
Big wins: “When you study the arts, you don’t often get to work in the field. In fact, everyone asks, ‘But what are you going to do for money?’ Studio C is a big win.”
Tough losses: “I lost my job the week I graduated. Then my wife got hit by a car driven by a kid on heroine. She was a ballet major, so that was rough. Life is fragile. Every day we’re alive is a victory.”
Strangest thing: “I’ve had people say we belong to them now, as if Studio C is a commodity.”
Fan talk: “Most of the time people say they know somebody who likes the show, but they rarely say they personally like it. I don’t know how to respond … ‘Thanks for knowing somebody who likes the show?’”
Goals for 2015: “I haven’t set goals since I was 20, and the last thing on that list was to have a baby. Did that. Now my goals are maintaining my marriage and being a father. I also want to direct a feature film and have another kid.”
Directly speaking: Jeremy directed the “Breaking Bad” parody.
Fame game: “People expect us to be funny all the time and be waving our arms back and forth. I’m not like that ever. I am introverted and keep to myself.”
Home state: Oregon
Byu degree: Film
Family status: Single
Mallory grew up as the youngest of six.
“I wanted to be like all of them so badly,” she says. “When people meet me, I feel like saying they don’t know the half of it — they haven’t met the best of the Evertons. There’s a great vibe in our big extended family, and those relationships encourage me to be the best I can be. I want to make them proud.”
Mallory’s role among the “siblings” of Studio C is to be the wild card, the random joke or the darkest humor.
“I give them something too violent for us to use, and then we tone it back down,” she says. “I am pretty much outlandish and random.”
Big wins: “I was 19 when I auditioned for Divine Comedy, although I didn’t really think of myself as a performer. I like the creative process, but I had been the videographer for the group as a freshman. It was scary auditioning in front of people I knew and wanted approval from. I had a panic attack before I went on. Getting in was a big deal, and it set the course.”
Sports psychology: “I struggle with stage fright. I actually don’t have a ton of confidence.”
Competitive streak: “If I’m part of a team I believe in, I will fight tooth and nail. We will train and beat everyone and everything everywhere.”
2015 goals: “Qualify for the Boston Marathon — I’ve gotten close. I also want to write a movie and put out a music album. And at some point, I would like to be on every continent. I also love to learn, so I want to earn a master’s and Ph.D. — but I’m not sure if that’s in the cards.”
Favorite sketches: “We don’t often get to make comments on adult shows, but with ‘Breaking Bad’ we did it in a family-friendly way. I also love Whitney’s German accent on ‘Fraulein Poppins.’”
Favorite part of Scott Sterling sketch: “It’s such a ‘Matt sketch’ because he likes it when somebody has to sustain a struggle. And I love sketches where Matt gets hurt. I also love the commentary — The man, the myth, the legend.”
Team Family: “I run ‘Hood to Coast’ with my family.”
Film faves: “Directing, writing, editing.”
Home state: Minnesota
BYU degree: Theatre Arts Education
Family status: Married and mother of two
Natalie had a two-week-old baby when Studio C’s first season started filming.
“I knew if I didn’t do Season 1, then I wouldn’t be part of Studio C,” says Natalie, whose husband is a stay-at-home dad.
During Season 4, Natalie was “barely pregnant” with her second baby. And in Season 5, she was noticeably expecting in most of the sketches. In fact, she had her second baby three days after the Scott Sterling video was filmed.
Natalie’s own childhood was the launching pad for her performance career.
“I was always putting on plays, and I’m sure they were horrible,” she says. Her plot took a turn for the famous when she met Matt Meese at age 18.
Favorite sketches: “My son likes ‘A Man’s Brain.’ I like the Wes Anderson sketches.”
2015 goals: “Lose the baby weight, write more sketches that appear in the show, improve my acting, get my daughter to sleep through the night.”
Pre-game rituals: “I like lip-syncing to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ beforehand. We love to dance and look stupid together.”
Post-game ritual: “Last season I was super pregnant, so I just wanted to take a bubble bath and sleep.”
Character you know her for: Susan Weebers (written by Natalie)
Life coaches: “My husband reads my scripts and gives me feedback.”
Big win: “Getting into BYU! I was wait-listed. Then I redid my essay and by some miracle got in.”
Tough loss: “Trying to have kids. Miscarriage is tough to go through.”
Game-time decision: “I had plans to serve a mission and go to grad school. Then I met my future husband when I was 19, and I had to make a choice to marry him or not when I was 20. I wasn’t going to be one of ‘those girls’ at BYU. But I was totally one of those girls.”
Home state: Oregon
BYU degree: Master’s in creative writing
Family status: Married to castmate Stephen Meek
When Whitney was in high school, she felt like an “awkward dork.”
“My parents told me that when I went to college, guys would be interested in a mature, smart woman,” Whitney says. “The average age of my sisters getting married was 19. By the time I was 21, my parents started talking about what if I never got married.”
Whitney put herself into a “weird mindset” until she realized she just needed to be happy with what she was doing right then.
“And that’s when Stephen was like, ‘Do you want to get married?’ And I was like, “Sure!”
Now the two share a career, a house and two pet goats.
Whitney sees performing as a way to do more than make people laugh. She also wants them to think.
For her senior project in high school, she directed a play about school violence. In college, Whitney took a creative writing class on a whim. This minor decision held a major plot twist.
“Teenagers deal with a lot of stuff,” she says. “We can do a lot of good by helping teens express themselves through fiction.”
One of Whitney’s favorite parts about Studio C is doing firesides, hospital visits and public appearances.
“It makes us feel like we’re doing more than being stupid on TV,” Whitney says.
The cast gets heart-wrenching letters, like one from a fan who is dealing with a brain tumor while his parents divorce.
“They say when they watch Studio C, they forget about the hard things happening right now,” Whitney says.
Favorite sports: “Running — but if I run with people it makes me anxious.”
Biggest wins: “This Studio C gig! I don’t know if I’ll have another win in my life better than this. I’ve peaked.”
Favorite sketch: “‘Peeta’s Song’ has replay value with the costumes and makeup — and Stacey kills it as Cinna. This last season I wrote a sketch about a rhino attack. That sketch had a lot that could be taken off the page. Often I’m super critical of myself, but that one is fun.”
Pre-game ritual: “Makeup and wardrobe people are emphatic about us not ruining our wigs or makeup before we go on stage, but I have to get my blood flowing and my body into it. Right before a sketch when the lights are off, I often scream.”
Post-game: “We go somewhere to eat and talk about things like how the live audience determines how well the show goes. If we happen to have an audience full of 12- and 13-year-olds and we have a sketch about the Democrat and Republican party, it might not fly. We’ve had sketches crash and burn if we have the wrong audience at the live taping.”
Competitive streak: “We all want to get sketches on the board. As a writer, you want to be trusted by the group. We only use 40 percent of the sketches we write, so we’re going to deliver some sketches that don’t land well.”
New Year’s Resolution: “For me it’s a time of reflection. Am I just a cynical person who pokes fun? I want to be someone who grabs life and does amazing things. I want people to feel safe with me.”
Home state: Texas
BYU degree: International Relations
LDS mission: South Korea
Family status: Married to castmate Whitney Call
When Stephen saw his first Divine Comedy show, he thought, “Someday I am going to do something similar. It was a weird zen moment with the universe — which is a lot like an experience Amy Poehler describes in her book.”
A couple years later, he landed a spot in the BYU group but still felt like “How did this happen to me?” Even now, as he sits in the writer’s room with the Studio C team, he thinks to himself, “These people are on TV! They are famous!”
Stephen’s taste for comedy was shaped by his older brother’s love for Monty Python. He’s also influenced by his wife, Whitney. The two often get the parts where there’s a kissing scene “because it’s just less awkward for everybody,” Stephen says.
“We both wake up excited and feel very blessed that this is our life right now,” Stephen says. But that doesn’t mean fame has its downsides.
“Last night, Whit and I went to a family friend’s house for dinner,” Stephen says. “They wanted to call a neighbor who had a son who loves the show. We don’t always want to think about the popularity of the show, but we met the kid and he was so excited. It was such a small thing, really. Fame is bizarre, and we are adjusting. Our public life has been significantly altered.”
Role on the team: I’m the sweeper (laughing). In the past two seasons, I have found my niche and contributed more. I’m not the strongest script writer, but I do well at editing. If I didn’t get on camera again, I wouldn’t be too upset if I was focusing on producing and directing.”
Pre-game ritual: “Even the number of times we’ve done it notwithstanding, I’m still like, ‘Oh man, this is really happening.’ I’m usually in a corner drinking water in the dark studio while I run over everything in my mind — including which lines need the most energy. I have physical anxiety, but as soon as I say my first line it all disappears.”
Competitive streak: “When I see the other crazy things that have gone viral, I get competitive thinking our stuff is just as good and should get more views. But you can’t predict what is going to get people excited. We want to do comedy that is worth making and not just pander.”
Favorite sketch: “Death Bed Repentance.” “When I first heard the script that Matt wrote, I thought it was the most genius idea we’d ever done. It is the epitome of what a sketch should be.”
Home state: Idaho
BYU degree: Biology
LDS mission: Argentina
Family status: Married and father of oneJason was planning to follow his dad’s footsteps and become a dentist. He graduated with his biology degree and applied to dental school. Then Matt asked Jason to “try this thing for one season.”
“I didn’t expect it to last more than that,” he says. Now heading into Season 6, Jason finds himself further from his dental plans.
“After doing sketch comedy for a living, it’s hard to think about dealing with halitosis all day,” he says.
Jason, who grew up with five brothers, is a British announcer on the Scott Sterling bit. In real life, he has the most team sports experience and is the most competitive of the entire cast — all 10 attest to that fact.
“Studio C is the least competitive group of friends I’ve ever met,” Jason says. “We played volleyball together a couple months after I’d gotten into the comedy group, and they thought I was a crazy sports psychopath.”
His brothers understand him and feed his penchant to forget the funny.
“I was just playing Nintendo 64 with my brother last night, and we treated it like life or death,” he said. “I hate to lose more than I love to win.”
Life coaches: “I used to make goofy sketch comedy videos in high school, and for a couple of Priest activities in my LDS ward, one of my leaders had us watch them. His interest in me meant a lot.”
Parenting from the sidelines: “My senior year, my parents got me the latest camera and editing equipment so I could pursue my passions.”
Big wins & tough losses: “I first tried out for Divine Comedy in 2008, and I was bummed out when I got to the final round but didn’t make it. The next year I worked on developing my sketches. Then Divine Comedy became my big win.”
Role on the team: “Voice impersonator. For one sketch in Season 5, all I do is voice impersonations as I’m leaving a voicemail.”
Not a team player: “I try to get Matt to break character on stage. I am always torturing him, and in several sketches you see him cracking a smile.”
Pre-game ritual: “I find a quiet place and go into zen mode. I tried dancing once and it threw me off the whole night.”
Superstitions: “The shoes I wore for the Divine Comedy audition became my good luck shoes and I always wore them on stage. Sadly, I lost them.”
Real-life exercise: “I hate running. I have to have a ball or a clear objective. I play basketball with my church group every Wednesday.”
Littlest teammate: Jason’s baby daughter was in two of the sketches in Season 5. “That brought me fatherly pride,” he says. “Beforehand she was screaming and didn’t like the loud noises. She calmed down for the camera. Such a diva.”
Big loss: “I worked so hard to make the school basketball team and didn’t. My senior year they built a new high school and had a huge budget for their video tech program, which allowed me to work with cameras, editing and film. So my basketball loss turned into a win.”
Taking requests: “A lot of people ask me to do my Gollum impersonation.”
Home state: Utah (Lone Peak HS grad)
BYU degree: Advertising
LDS mission: Taiwan
Family status: Single
Adam turned 26 this past year and blogged about 30 things he wanted to do before age 30. “Star in a TV comedy series” didn’t make the list — he checked that off starting in 2012. But on paper, his career shouldn’t have taken a turn for the funny.
Adam had never written anything comedic and had no performing experience worth writing home about. But it was 2010, he was in college and had nothing to lose. He wrote two minutes of original material and auditioned for Divine Comedy in front of 400. His sketch was a “Where’s Waldo” piece where he was on the phone while looking for things. At the end, you realize he’s been talking about Osama Bin Laden and where he’s hiding.
“Now my life is laughing,” Adam says.
And about that 30 before 30 list? So far he has checked off “bottle feed bears” at Bear World in Idaho. He swam in a hot springs, thanks to the Crater in Midway. Now he just needs to experience a sensory deprivation tank, go to South America, fly first class, kiss a stranger and climb to his goal weight of 175 pounds.
Life coaches: “This past summer, I finished school and wondered what to do with my life. My parents were the ones who told me to stick with the show full time.”
Tough losses: “After my mission, I felt strongly I should work at the MTC in the Chinese department. The group interview went well. The teaching interview went well. They said they liked me but did not hire me. Later, I was offered a job in the ESL department, which would have fulfilled my dream of teaching at the MTC, but the job started at 2 a.m and I had an 8 a.m. class. Sadly, I didn’t take the job, but that had a domino effect that led me to audition for Divine Comedy. A tough loss became a big win.”
Pre-game rituals: “Despite how much we see each other, we never run out of things to talk about, so we’re chatting and dancing around before the show. It’s important to get our bodies moving before we get on stage so not all the energy is in our voices.”
Memorable sketch: “In Season 3, one scene started off with me looking exhausted. Our director had me run around the building and do burpees right before we filmed. Then I ran right onto the scene.”
Post-game: “I’m wired and tired after a show. We often have 12- or 14-hour workdays, but often I still stay up all night.”
On fans: “I’m a normal boring person — I wouldn’t want a picture with me. It’s surreal when fans stop me when family or friends are watching because they think I’m just a normal person, and they are right. I don’t go anywhere without showering anymore because the most common thing we get asked is to take pictures.”
Other common questions: “Do you get paid? How long do you plan to stay on the show? How long will the show last? People are worried that it will end abruptly.”
Competitive streak: “I’m competitive with myself. Before Season 6, I had written eight sketches, but I’ve written a lot for our next season, so now I’m up to 11 or 12. I’ve written more than the equivalent of an entire episode, and I like to track my progress that way.”
Exercise preferences: “I’ll do P90X yoga, but only the 30-minute one.”
Twin towers: Adam’s twin sister is an accountant.
No ‘C’ in Team
Studio C castmates aren’t just cubicle neighbors.
Take a look at the cast connections.
- Stephen and Whitney are married.
- Matt, Adam and Stacey live together.
- Mallory and Whitney went to high school together in Oregon.
- Jason’s wife dated Stephen at one time.
- Stephen’s younger brother lives in James’ basement.
- All 10 of the Studio C cast got their chops at Divine Comedy.
- Adam graduated from Lone Peak, where he also went to school with Jeremy’s wife and Natalie’s husband.
- Most of the cast went on a cruise together the week after Thanksgiving 2014.
Home state: California
BYU degree: Mechanical engineering
LDS mission: Italy
Family status: Married
James has a “nervous tick of doing voices backstage.
“Jason liked this particular voice I was doing, and when I said the word ‘bisque,’ he thought it was really funny.”
So James fleshed out the “Lobster Bisque” character and a potential setting, loosely patterned after the “Cheese Shop” scene from Monty Python.
Now four Lobster bisque sketches, a Christmas promo and a T-shirt line later, this sketch is one of the reasons the four original cast members are being marketed as a 10-member cast.
Comedy provided James with “refreshment” from his studies in math and science. His mechanical engineering degree led him to write software, and now he puts his prowess to work at BYUtv.
“I am really good at Google spreadsheets,” James says in a characteristic voice.
Scott Sterling memory: “Apparently the cleats the wardrobe staff gave to me were the original of some certain style. BYU soccer players who were in the sketch with us were geeking out over them and asked me to take them off. So I stood there on the grass in my socks watching them try on my shoes. I still have no idea what made them so cool.”
Soccer resume: “In elementary school, I played on a team but I would mostly sit on the grass and make beautiful piles. If my pile of grass got big enough, I was hesitant to leave the pile and go to the ball.”
Basketball resume: “My parents told me if I ever made a basket, they would take everyone out to dinner. That happened once my second year of basketball.”
Life coaches: “A Young Men’s leader in my LDS ward was with me for four years, and he was always encouraging my hobbies. Between him and my dad — who was a program manager for Microsoft — I got the complete picture of what you can be as a man. They gave me two sides of things.”
Big wins: “Going to Italy on my mission was big. I had started learning Italian on my own, so I felt like I had been in tune about what was coming.”
Big loss: “My brother was biking around the country promoting national forests, and his life was cut short by a drunk driver. Losing my brother still affects my day-to-day life and how I see things.”
Favorite sketches: “Dubstep DJ. The track sounds pretty cool, and it’s funny.”
Favorite exercise: “I run up Y mountain with my dog, and I’m trying to cut down my time. We’re all ‘getting ripped for Season 6,’ and we have goals to get in shape, be more productive, get better sleep and build our endurance.”
Pre-game ritual: “I get ready to perform like I get ready to hang out with friends. But backstage, things are pretty hectic. People are telling you where to sit down, you need this, put this on.”
Home state: Texas
BYU degree: Public relations
LDS mission: Brazil
Family status: Single
Stacey was late to the Scott Sterling filming because he was doing homework. He’s the last of the cast to get his BYU diploma, which he earned in December 2014.
“I remember asking, ‘Do I really need to be there? Do you really need me?” Stacey says. “But I got there and it was a chill shoot.”
Stacey reminded the cast at the Utah Valley Magazine photo shoot that filmings are fun in retrospect, but at the time they can feel like work.
Take the Hunger Games, for example.
“For one part, we filmed all night and I was afraid to look low energy. I kept asking Jared, ‘Do I look tired?’” Stacey says. “I was sleeping between shots.”
Stacey’s work ethic was honed over years of preparing to get into BYU — and then by figuring out how to pay for it without going into debt. His education is significant to his whole family, as his parents didn’t graduate from college.
“Getting into BYU changed my life,” he says. “It shaped my testimony and I’ve had to work super hard for everything, but it was a huge life changer.
Role on the team: “I’m ‘Team Diversity,’ and I think that’s important. I’m also the emcee at the live showings and tapings. I consider myself the connector.”
Life coaches: “If I came home with a B and I told my dad that everyone else got Cs, he would say, ‘That doesn’t matter. You are capable of more. Never compare yourself.’ He is so supportive of me doing well. He would be sleeping through my band concerts, but he made a huge effort to go.”
Influential teacher: “BYU public relations professor Laurie Wilson. She pushes hard, but she set a trend for my education. She also told me good job on a movie I was in. It made me emotional. It meant so much.”
Big wins & tough losses: “I was an RA when I landed a spot in Divine Comedy. My bosses told me I couldn’t do both, even though I created a proposal for how to do both. But they didn’t see it that way. I lost my house and my job in the same moment. But that’s turned into a huge victory that led to Studio C.”
Sports resume: “Everyone thinks I should play basketball, but it’s not my thing. On my mission in Brazil, I stayed fresh playing soccer on P-days and I learned some tricks. I love pushing myself and waking up sore. It hurts but it feels so good. It’s like your body thanking you.”
Competitive streak: “If I drive somewhere and someone else is headed to the same place, I have to get there before them. Jason brings out my competitiveness. The thing that destroys me is when I haven’t given it my all — even if it’s intramurals, doesn’t matter. If I play my best and other people aren’t trying, that boils the blood.
Big wins: “I raced Matt recently (laughs). The video is on Natalie’s Instagram.
I smoked him, and you can quote me on that.”
Pre-game ritual: “I like to get pumped and listen to some sick jams.”
Little known fact: “I’m big on organization and still use the BYU freshman planner to lay out my life. If I’m organized, I’m ready to go.”
Team motto: “Everyone here can do something better than I can. It helps me to realize that. But it’s not about the single player. It’s not our focus for Natalie to shine or for Matt to be the best. It’s for Studio C to be recognized. We think of ourselves as a team.”
Random sayings: “‘Boom there goes the dynamite.’ I’m the guy who’s gotta sing, and now everyone is starting to do it.
2015 goals: “My Studio C goal is to be more useful, especially in the PR sense.”
Writing inspiration: I was driving to campus and heard a song that gave me a sketch idea. I had to call BYU Radio and ask them what song was playing. You can’t miss a really good idea.
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