PaliHi’s Holiday ‘Friday Night Live’ Sketches Produce Hearty Laughs

By Laurel Busby
Staff Writer

Donald Trump as the Grinch,“Jingle Bells” while eating habanero peppers, and a carolers’ cult all vied for laughs at Palisades High School’s “Friday Night Live” on Dec. 9.

The take-off on the long-running sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live follows the format of the popular television show even before the actors take the stage. With a similar writing, rehearsal and technical schedule, the students under the direction of teacher Nancy Cassaro-Fracchiolla create a lively, funny show complete with newscasters doing “Weekend Update.”

Llewyn St. John as the Trump/Grinch.
Llewyn St. John as the Trump/Grinch.

“It’s one of the favorite things I do” at Pali, said Cassaro-Fracchiolla, who also teaches drama and directs the school’s musicals and dramas. “I think the students are really phenomenal. I love working with them.”

Each school year, the dedicated after-school club members produce about five shows, which they perform twice, at 7 and 9 p.m., always on a Friday night. This gives them a chance to see what works with a live audience and what needs tweaking.

Cassaro-Fracchiolla, a 25-year veteran of acting/directing, pushed to add a second show last year when the teens were at first resistant. She told them, “I want you to have the experience of seeing what worked and what didn’t, and then turning around and doing it again . . . Don’t expect you’re going to get the same exact laugh. Every audience is different.”

The students have now embraced the concept, and more than 30 teens threw themselves into the production of their recent holiday effort in Mercer Hall.

The initial sketch, “The Trump Who Stole Christmas,” written by and starring Llewyn St. John, was a hit even before a word was spoken as the bright orange Grinchy figure wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap had the audience at the get-go. Lines like “I’ll take all these gifts to the top of Trump Tower— my biggest erection, my source of true power” also caused huge laughs in the crowd, as did the appearance of little Hillary Lou.

Afterwards, the troupe performed eight more sketches, including one called “Cookies for Santa” (written by Ryan Loyola and Anika Shorr), which was also ripped from recent news. Because of Proposition 64’s marijuana legalization in California, the skit’s two 20-somethings played by Shorr and Sam Korobkin felt free to make some marijuana-laced Christmas cookies, which an 8-year-old (Scotty Holland) left for Santa (August Hartwell). Santa consumes them and soon exhibits some classic signs of being high. He feels buzzed, gets the munchies and even realizes he has no idea how his reindeer fly. “It’s really freaking me out!,” he laments.

Another fun moment was a video directed by Hartwell that consisted of students trying to sing Christmas carols after eating habanero peppers. Some were close to tears, most sang in a somewhat tortured manner, although one boy (Charlie Hobert) seemed to have no trouble at all belting out the tunes.

Musical guest Taylor Schonbuch provided a warm break from the jokes with melodious versions of “Happy Christmas” and “Last Christmas,” featuring accompaniment from keyboardist Trevor Meseroll and guitarist Gabe Galef, plus backup singing by Molly Lovett.

Every sketch had numerous funny moments, including a piece titled “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (written by Nicole Levi and Pierre Thibodeaux) wherein a child (Alyssa Velky) sees mommy (Alex Holdom) not only kissing daddy (Harrison Larkin) in his Santa suit, but also another man. There was “So You Think You Can Carol” (also by Levi and Thibodeaux), which featured a cult of carolers who sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Savior” and say of their leader: “He leads us, and thus we are led.”

In addition, there was “Uncle Ricky” (written by Sam Zahn) about a magic-performing previously unknown uncle (Declan Wells); “Hanukkah Dinner” by Max Vaupen with a doctor (Zahn) who doesn’t want to perform CPR due to a guest’s cold sore; “The Harvard Interview” by Jakob Pollack, with an inter- viewer making snide muttered comments about the interviewee’s answers (featuring Madison Levitt and Julia Ward), and “The Roasting Chestnut” by St. John about a guy (St. John) dressed as a huge chestnut who roasts some party guests with his insults.

The show ended with “Weekend Update,” featuring serious and sharp newscasters played by the club’s presidents, Vaupen and St. John, both of whom co-wrote the piece with Jake Procino. The segment got a huge cheer from the audience right at the start, and their jokes were spot-on, including one ribbing the school’s iPad program.

The next “Friday Night Live” will likely be held near the end of February with another in the spring.

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