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PROVO — Actor Jeremy Warner portrays a U.S. senator attempting to filibuster a bill. From beneath the podium, he removes a pile of books — not phone books, or Dr. Seuss children’s books, but Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. Soon, after reading a few passages, Warner and his fellow senators are in tears.
This sounds like a comedy sketch from "Saturday Night Live," but it’s far from the show’s New York City studios.
This is a live taping of "Studio C", a G-rated, SNL-type sketch comedy show produced by BYUtv in Provo.
The show grew out of the BYU student comedy troupe, Divine Comedy. Three years ago, actor and writer Matt Meese approached BYUtv producer Jared Shores with the idea.
“Well BYU had never done anything like this before,” Meese said. “They’d never done a scripted series, and they hadn’t done any comedy before.”
“(I) initially was skeptical but it didn’t take long for me to jump on board and say there’s a lot of opportunity and potential here,” Shores said.
Now "Studio C" is producing its fourth season, and tickets for live studio tapings have become so popular that BYUtv has instituted a lottery system, and the show has accumulated 25 million views on YouTube.
Although Divine Comedy gets laughs with campus humor, "Studio C" does not broadcast Mormon or regional humor.
Our first mission is to make people laugh, and right below that is to make sure it doesn't cross the line that we don't want it to. We don't want it to go into the crude, into the crass.
–BYUtv producer Jared Shores
A recent taping included sketches about a blind date with a Tolkien character, a plane crash and Hamlet’s Polonius trying to recall his sage advice.
“Yeah, we had a lot of conversations about whether we would ever use material that was BYU-specific or Mormon-specific, and the consensus was we didn’t want to do that so it could have a general appeal to anyone,” Meese said.
“We just want to come up with anything that will make everybody laugh,” said actor/writer Whitney Call. “So kids and grandparents and everyone in between.”
"Studio C" writers are careful to keep the jokes clean.
“Our first mission is to make people laugh, and right below that is to make sure it doesn’t cross the line that we don’t want it to,” Shore said. “We don’t want it to go into the crude, into the crass.”
It's been a rich experience, Meese said.
“It’s so rewarding to see people laugh, have a good time, bringing families together but also just helping people forget their troubles for a little while and have a good time,” Meese said.
Studio C’s new fourth season will premier April 7 on BYUtv.