University of Northern Colorado’s premiere sketch comedy group, Hello, My Name Is, has been a vibrant, collaborative part of campus for the past 10 years. Currently run by co-presidents Sam Oguma and Bee Dellepiane, the group of 11 typically performs live 30 to 60 minute shows featuring comedy sketches written, produced and acted in by students within the group.
As a member of HMNI for the past four years, Oguma enjoys the originality of the group and the impact it brings to a college campus. “Comprised of a diverse cast of comedians, we bring a style of comedy to campus that is completely our own,” Oguma said.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, HMNI has had to completely reroute, turning their live shows into virtual livestreams of pre-recorded video sketches instead. While the shift came with obstacles, the group still managed to adapt and create memorable content for their audiences.
“This past fall semester was full of experimenting with different ways to put up shows,” Oguma said. “Fortunately, we’re so lucky to have such an amazing group of folks that were ready to try new things. Safety was and is our top priority, and we are definitely proud to say that we’ve been making some of our best content while also remaining safe within the group!”
Anyone who has seen a live HMNI show knows how vibrant and electric they are. Audience members love the entertainment, and to show support for the comedy group even more so. As co-presidents for the past two years, Oguma and Dellepiane had an even larger amount of responsibility this year, leading the team through the unexpected shift while always striving to provide the same quality and engagement with the livestreams as there was with live shows.
“A typical HMNI show pre-COVID involved dozens and dozens of audience members huddling together to watch us perform five live sketches and two videos. Now, we host live streams of our shows which are entirely made up of video sketches,” Dellepiane said. “We’ve also reduced the number of sketches per show from seven to four, because videos ask a lot more commitment from the group and take a lot more time.”
A number of HMNI members live in the same household, and when it came to rare in-person shoots for the video sketches, all members were masked and socially distanced for safety. But coordinating these videos and navigating rehearsals over Zoom was also tiring at times.
However, in some ways the content challenge came with new ideas and creativity for the group.
“All our live streams have a ‘throughline’ between sketches, such as commercials and TV network previews for our reality TV-themed show, or a couple of narrators telling stories around a fire for our Halloween show,” Dellepiane said. “This kind of thing wasn’t possible pre-COVID, and it really adds a layer of engagement and polish that ties our shows together. We’ve also been a lot more experimental with our videos, as well as how we shoot them, and I don’t think we would have stretched our creative wings like that before the pandemic.”
At its heart, HMNI is a close knit group of friends who love to create comedy and make a positive impact on the UNC community.
For Dellepiane, the group holds a lot of nostalgia for her.
“My favorite part about being in HMNI is the friendships I’ve made. The group is so tight and working on sketches together is honestly always fun because we all have different strengths and one common goal: make each other laugh,” Dellepiane said.
For Oguma, the most memorable part of being in HMNI is the freedom of originality that comes with creating one’sown content.
“Our shows are completely our own. We create the themes, sketches, writing, filming, editing, we do it all ourselves! Having complete control over our own process allows us to be our own artists, and create whatever comes to our mind!” Oguma said.
When asked about their favorite sketches, the two co-presidents had instant go-tos.
“My favorite kinds of sketches to create are the absurd, surreal, sometimes even scary ones. The ones that make the audience laugh, not necessarily because they’re funny, but because they’re not sure how else to respond,” Dellepiane said.
“My favorite sketches are the mockumentary type! I love documentaries so much, and fake ones are even better! ‘American Vandal’ and ‘Documentary Now!’ are comedy gold,” Oguma said.
In some ways, COVID has not only challenged artists and entertainers during this past year, but has also forced them to think outside of the box to reach their audience and create memorable entertainment in ways they might not have previously thought of.