David Dufour has been spending time regularly in Chicago lately, learning and perfecting his writing style in sketch comedy at The Second City Training Center.
The Second City is a groundbreaking organization famous for its part in training Saturday Night Live (SNL) greats John Belushi, Chris Farley, Steve Carrell, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler, and now IU South Bend’s own David Dufour.
“The program is great,” says Dufour, “I’m the oldest person in the class but it’s fun for me because it’s going back to hanging out with young, smart, fun people. I’ve done stuff like this before a number of years ago, I did sketch comedy with a friend of mine. We did corporate work, but we never did it according to any particular formula, we just wrote what we thought was funny.”
That former work, however, was for a corporate setting with sales courses and customer service. “We just wrote what we thought was funny,” Dufour recalls. “Presumably we’ll all get something up on stage. It would be nice to bring it back to this area.”
The structure of the program is that over the course of the year, and there are classes ambigiously titled “Writing 1-6.” Each class is 8 weeks long. Writing assignments are weekly and the exercises presented in class help to foster the creative process, generate material, and establish a regular writing schedule. Writing 1-4 are traversable for the entire accepted class, but Writing 5 and 6 require students to submit a sketch for review to, ideally, make it to the Student Stage.
“If you want to go on, you have to actually write a sketch—they give you a prompt so you can’t really use anything that you’ve worked on for ten weeks, and you have about a week to write a sketch as an audition to get into Writing 5 and 6. It really is one class but two terms. Right now I’m in 5, and we’re working on sketches to do a short sketch show, which will be a half hour show and will appear on one of the student stages in January,” explains Dufour. “We write it now, we audition and need actors to rehearse to do it, then in January it goes up for about four weekends.”
The benefits are many for Dufour’s personal creative development, the community, and Dufour’s future students.
“I’m the Executive Director of the Elkhart Civic Theatre at the Bristol Opera House and so there’s a possibility to we could use what I could bring back to it and develop and sketch show there once a year,” Dufour says. “So there’s kind of a tentative thing. Plus, for me since I work in the theater and I direct it’s also knowing how sketches and comedy is structure is also very helpful for interpreting and being able to direct other actors in it too. So that’s another positive benefit for me.”
As for students? Dufour sometimes teaches Intro to Theatre, and the assignments that he assigns for that course will benefit from his new perspective.
“For starters, one of the assignments in that class is to write a 2-person scene, so I feel like I can give them better input after having done a number of these and show them how—show people how it works. The more you write, the better you get at it, if you’re getting good feedback,” says Dufour.
The class has been an exposure to different ideas and formulas, as well as creatives and different ways of thinking. “I’ve met people who are obviously crazy but brilliant teachers. I’ve had some people who are so much fun to work with and they are hilarious, but they are deadly serious about what they’re doing. It’s sort of neat because you sit and you’re like, ‘is somebody in my class going to become this famous SNL person? Because that’s where they come from.”