By Lauryn Pierro
Ryerson’s official comedy sketch group RiOT started the new year with a performance at 120 Diner on January 7.
It was the group’s first time performing at this venue and four out of their 11 members prepared engaging jokes on various topics ranging from their hatred towards pizza crust, to the hidden danger of having your guard down at a McDonald’s.
Mandy Goodhandy, the owner of 120 Diner, a restaurant known for its live entertainment, wanted to create a safe and welcoming space for young students to practice their art and perform for free.
“What we do here is make sure that all young people have a place to perform because it’s a tough life out there and this kind of art is priceless,” said Goodhandy. “Growing up, I didn’t get these kinds of opportunities and I was turned down a lot as an entertainer, so I opened up my own place and [wanted] people to feel welcome.”
RiOT first began in 1949 and it mainly involves RTA students from first, second and third year. It has now become a prominent RTA tradition that is greatly anticipated within the program.
Laura Lee was one of the performers at this year’s first event. She joined RiOT in her first year after seeing them perform at frosh in 2013.
“It’s my third year being a part of RiOT and although RTA is amazing, RiOT makes it much better,” said Lee. “You’re always coming up with creative content and under creative pressure, especially when we do standup shows; it’s a great way to test yourself.”
Natalie Panucci, the producer at RiOT, is a third-year RTA student and emphasized her appreciation for how tightly-knit and entertaining the group is.
“My favourite thing about being part of RiOT is just being able to sit down and read out the [cast members’] scripts and laugh for two hours. It’s so much fun,” said Panucci. “It’s like a family, we really get to know one another. [The members also] work really hard and it is so amazing to see what they come up with.”
RiOT is not only a group for creative comics, but also a place for those who need an emotional outlet and welcoming environment. That’s what first-year cast member Ben Ball was looking for. Ball said that he never thought he would have the courage to perform comedy. However, thanks to encouragement from friends who were already part of RiOT, he took a leap and joined them. He was also one of the performers at their latest event.
“For me it started because I already had friends in RiOT who really wanted me to join and at first, I didn’t really think I would fit in because I had anxiety about performing, but everyone encouraged me, so it wasn’t so bad,” said Ball. “Coming up with scripts and ideas was a huge leap for me, it’s awesome and I’m loving it.”