If you’ve ever watched Jericho perform, you know what it means to “cry of laughter,” and you also probably know what it feels like to unintentionally pee your pants. The improv comedy group, which has been on campus for nine years now, hosts shows throughout the semester, most of which are held in a small, hard-to-find classroom in the basement of Moffitt. Freshmen and seniors alike flock to the covert location Friday evenings to see the performers bare their unscripted souls to the public, and while most campus performance groups are lucky if they fill half the seats in their audience, Jericho consistently sells out, corralling the surplus of attendees in the aisles, on the floors and out into the hall. The audience is in stitches from lights up to lights down. Laughter spills from the basement. The room shakes with clapping, cheering and voracious howls. And while the every member of the comedy group shines in his or her own, hilarious way, one comedian stands out in particular.
Jessi Sosnovskaya never misses a beat. Like a stealthy hawk ready to swoop in on her prey, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed genius of a performer knows exactly what to say and when to say it. Her sense of comedic timing is unmatched, and her creativity abilities take the show to a professional level. Whether she’s giving a sermon in a foreign language or impersonating a masochistic child, she puts her all into the bit and does not break character. The entertainer transforms simple scenes into dramatic, complex stories, supporting her fellow actors and delivering witty one-liners with pure comedic ingenuity. Sosnovskaya is nothing short of inspiring.
The Daily Clog had the opportunity to chat with Sosnovskaya about her experience as a comedian and her life at UC Berkeley.
Daily Clog: How did you get involved with Jericho? Have you always been a performer?
Jessi Sosnovskaya: I learned about Jericho my freshman year completely on accident by picking up a flyer on Sproul. I’ve always loved stage acting, and I had been doing improv for four years before college, though I try not to think about it too much — so I thought Jericho would be fun. Best decision ever!
DC: From where do you draw your material?
JS: Typically, before Jerichos start a set, we ask a member of the audience for a piece of information, like a word or a short spiel about his or her day. From then on, it’s all association — what can I remember from my life that this word reminds me of? How can I borrow from that memory to create a new scene? It’s a mix of personal experiences and new information, along with a little bit of crazy to add zest.
DC: What does it feel like when you are on stage? How do you keep a scene moving?
JS: It’s a total rush! There’s nothing like an auditorium filled with laughter to get your blood rushing — not only because it’s a pat on the back, but also because you feel like you have a genuine connection with a huge group of people. When a person reacts strongly to something you’ve said, it’s as if you’re both suddenly on the same exact page — now, imagine that with a whole roomful of people! It’s mind-blowing! Keeping a scene going is more than just getting laughs, though — it’s a joint effort between you and your partners on stage to create a story from scratch.
DC: What year are you, what is your major and what are your plans for after graduation?
JS: I’m a senior going on super-senior, and I’m a biological anthropology and neuropsychology double major. After graduation? I’m keeping my fingers crossed to take part in the JET program and teach abroad in Japan for a year. After that, most likely grad school, but who knows? So long as my parents keep feeding me when I come home, I think I’ll have time to figure it out.
DC: What’s up with your last name?
JS: I know, right? Have you seen my first one? Jessi is short for Yevgeniya. True story: in school, my name never fit on the roster fully — so sad. I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. We all have names like that. Scary, I know.
DC: What’s the best advice you have ever gotten?
JS: Stop looking around at other people to “check” that you’re doing something well … unless you’re driving on the wrong side of the road.
DC: What’s your idea of a fun time?
JS: A bag of Cheetos, two Dualshock PS3 controllers and my boyfriend. I’m open to anything, honestly — but if it were completely up to me, no judgment or consequences, I’d pop in Assassin’s Creed and pretend to not have a life for a day. That’s why my boyfriend picks the dates.
DC: What sites are bookmarked on your Internet browser?
JS: Speedreader, Lumosity, Cloud Reader, Facebook, Romantically Apocalyptic, Hark! A Vagrant, LootCrate, Etsy (shameless waste of money), WriterDuet, Buzzfeed, How To Lose Belly Fat in 10 Days for Women (it works!)
DC: If you were a root vegetable, which root vegetable would you be, and why?
JS: I’m not too intimately familiar with root vegetables. Probably a beet? Beets are cool — you can make some mad dishes out of beets, and Russian cuisine is heavy on beets. Also, beets have an attitude. Ever tried cutting a beet and not getting your hands permanently stained? Beets leave an impression. That’s my motto: be beets.
DC: How do you feel about clogs?
JS: I feel about clogs the same way I feel about beets: they leave an impression. I regret not wearing clogs to my Jericho audition.
DC: Why should students go to a Jericho show?
JS: Come unwind after a long week of classes for a buck! Bring your date there, your parents (if they’re cool with some unsavory material), your friends, your dog (we love dogs!) — bring anyone! We perform every other Friday and have two big shows per semester — a two-day event! All the info is on our Facebook page, facebook.com/jericho.comedy. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll lose a buck and will be short one potential pack of gum. In the best, you’ll meet the love of your life and move to Paris. Either one’s not too bad.
“Student Spotlight” is a new Daily Clog series that features UC Berkeley students that do cool things. If you’d like to nominate someone to be included in the series please email [email protected]
Daniela Grinblatt is an assistant blog editor. Contact her at [email protected].