Organization Spotlight: Tongue N’ Cheek

Simon Silverberg

“This election season? Unique? Maybe if you consider that a wad of racist, crusty nacho cheese was elected president.” Carsen Smith of Vanderbilt’s Tongue N’ Cheek, Nashville’s funniest improv group (as rated by themselves), was in no mood to mince words about how the past year made their jobs as humorists more difficult yet more rewarding.

In telling the story of Tongue ‘N’ Cheek over the 2016-2017 school year, we would be remiss to not include how the group incorporated the 2016 election into their work. Many of the Vanderbilt students who felt disgusted, disenchanted, and fell in disbelief after November 8th, 2016 found their way to TNC’s show to provide a brief reprieve from our political reality. “We hoped that our ‘End of the World’ show on Inauguration Day would serve as a pleasant distraction for people looking to escape our rubber toad overlord.”

While the 2016 election brought many changes to the content of Tongue ‘N’ Cheek’s shows, the members themselves have pioneered new ground over recent years, performing outside of the Vanderbilt community at local comedy theatres and charity events. Smith notes that as the group began to perform more events in Nashville, they also started working with a Belmont comedy group, the Fall Follies. With SNL ratings at a twenty-two year high, it appears that more and more people are turning towards comedy for explanation of or, perhaps, relief from the current world.  

As studying for midterms, applying to summer jobs, and getting denied from Towers fill much of our schedule for the home stretch of this school year, Tongue ‘N’ Cheek wants to help Vanderbilt students unwind every now and then to have a laugh. “We find that the Vanderbilt student population at times takes itself a bit too seriously. Our goal is to provide laughter, humor, and lightheartedness for students and remind everyone that life and especially college are meant to be fun,” writes Smith.

In prompting us to embrace the funny side of life, TNC does not neglect the possibility that some of their jokes, or humor in general, may test us. “Comedy is something that should never be safe. It should always challenge its audience.” Through jokes, TNC hopes to bridge the divide between groups on campus and few things make us more inclined to let our guards down than a good ole belly laugh. Laughing and smiling transcends language and can work to remind two people with vastly different lives of the common ground they share and the common goals they can both work towards. “Our hope is that when people leave a TNC show, they keep with them the sense that being goofy is good for the soul. If we can get up on stage and do a scene where Nicki Minaj marries Teddy Roosevelt on a cruise ship, anything is possible.

Be sure to keep an eye out for any April Fool’s Day debauchery courtesy of Tongue ‘N’ Cheek. And with less than two months before the Class of 2017 puts on their caps and gowns and “the real world” continues to creep ever closer to the rest of us, we hope you heed Tongue ‘N’ Cheek’s call to challenge yourself, never forgetting to laugh along the way.

Photograph courtesy of TNC/Kathy Yuan