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The Chapel Hill Herald
Thursday, April 11, 1996
Vol. 8, No. 311

Comedy troupe to warm up for festival at UNC
by Susan Broili
The Chapel Hill Herald

CHAPEL HILL — Get the Van Gogh-Goghs together and they do go on.

The six-member comedy collective just can't help it. During an interview Wednesday, the Gogh guys cracked jokes and exchanged banter - even with member Alan Benson, who attended by speaker phone.

"I think you look really good in black," Galen Black quipped, looking at the telephone.

Audiences can see them in action at a free show at 9 p.m. Saturday at UNC's Cabaret in the Student Union.

Joining Black, 28, are the other Goghs: Benson, 25; T. Michael Childs, 28; Charles Rempel, 24; Robert Terrell, 28; and Jason Torchinsky, 24.

The gig is a warm-up for their appearance at the Big Stinkin' International Improv Fest late this month in Austin, Texas.

The first-time, weeklong festival features 19 groups as well as workshops taught by members of the Second City and "Saturday Night Live" casts.

The Gogh guys plan to perform 12 of their best sketches during their 45-minute festival appearance in Esther's Pool, an Austin club.

"Some of our props don't float," Rempel said.

The group starts with a written sketch and then ad-libs.

"Ad lib is a euphemism for forgetting lines," Childs said.

Ideas come from everywhere — TV, just joking around.

"Every week we watch '60 Minutes' and just laugh and laugh. We take a wacky premise and just go from there," Childs said.

"Like Adopt a Highway. We show them off like proud parents," Torchinsky said.

In another sketch, a man goes to a psychic and she tells him: "You buried your wife in the back yard." The man shoots the psychic, who says: "You're never going to get away with this." The man says: "What do you know?"

"If the majority of us laughs, we'll put it out there," Rempel said.

Usually a couple of the Goghs perform stand-up before the sketches.

"You can't have stand-up about things that work well. Dissatisfaction is the seed of a lot of comedy," Torchinsky said.

Some of the members knew each other before they formed the group in 1992. Benson, Charles, and Torchinsky went to high school together in Greensboro. Galen, Terrell and Childs worked on a comedy series, "Off the Cuff," on the UNC cable channel.

They decided on the Van Gogh-Goghs because they liked the 1980s pop group, the Go-Gos and admired Theo Van Gogh.

"Theo supported Vincent. Vincent was irrational and nuts," Torchinsky said.

"Oh, sure he could paint," Black said.

"Van Duran Durans just didn't have the same ring," Torchinsky added.

The group's goal?

"Not to have day jobs," Childs said.

"We'd like to do comedy and not starve," Benson said.

For now, they plan to keep their day jobs. Benson works as an advertising copy editor. Black is a production assistant for UNC-TV. Childs works in the audiovisual department at the Searle Center at Duke University Medical Center. Rempel tests software for Software Designs, Ltd. Terrell is the founder and president of Fringe Multimedia and Torchinsky, a graphic artist, works with Terrell.

They're hoping their Texas gig will help launch their comedy career.

Some members already have some claim to fame. Torchinsky opened for George Carlin at UNC in 1993. Rempel, who graduated from Duke in 1993, directed and starred in "Happy Head," a sketch comedy show on Cable 13. Although only one show aired a year for three years, Rempel claims, on his resume, that the show lasted three seasons, which he says is technically true.

They said their audience is growing as a result of their page on the World Wide Web — voted one of the Seven Wonders of the Web.

On the page, they put pictures of themselves and information about the group as well as a smart ladder with weekly ratings on the intelligence of each member.

An example of how they gauge this quality came up Wednesday as they talked about looking forward to going to the O. Henry Museum in Austin.

"O. Henry was born in Greensboro," Torchinsky said.

Terrell said he thought there was an apostrophe after the O.

"That will make you fall down the smartness ladder," Galen said.

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