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BJs Shine in Unorthodox Show

By Thomas J. Castillo, Contributing Writer

What did it take to bring together Tatyana Ali '02, final club gladiators, urinating improv comedians and even a dancing ALF?

Two guys named B.J.

B.J. Novak '01 and B.J. Averell '02 managed to lure a capacity crowd to the Lowell Lecture Hall Friday and Saturday night with their eponymous variety show, billed as "The Event of the Year."

As with any self-respecting extravaganza, "The BJ Show" boasted a house band, a celebrity guest and a lovely assistant named Megan (Megan A. Todd '03). And with tickets printed by the Harvard Box Office and full-color, glossy posters hung around campus, the show seemed the work of seasoned professionals.

But this was Novak and Averell's first variety show, and they worked without the aid of any campus organization.

They said that independence was essential for a show this unconventional--posters warned about material unsuitable to minors--and the difficulties of working on their own were not insurmountable.

"It's not that hard to put a show on without an organization, but it should be even easier," Novak said.

The event, the product of three months work, was composed of what the BJs called a "random" collection of talent--from a reverse stripper (who strode out wearing a g-string, and then sexily re-dressed) to the men's basketball team to the women's a cappella group, The Pitches (whose members broke into a catfight).

Both BJs admit that their original plans were more devious.

Novak, a member of the semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine, had been brainstorming three months ago about a way to do something "really original." At first, he thought about sabotaging a Loeb Experimental theater play--a sort of performance art prank.

He later decided on a less antagonistic project after hearing about his friend Averell's idea for a prank.

Averell is something of a campus celebrity, known for his on and offstage theatrics--including his arrest last fall for sneaking aboard a Delta flight bound for Philadelphia.

Independently, around the same time, Averell thought about publicizing a show that would not exist.

And then it hit the BJs.

They had the same name. That was funny. Why not do a show that the audience would actually enjoy?

"A lot of the show was based on the assumption that people with the same name are funny," Averell said.

Indeed, the show also included two Megans and two Krishnans.

The BJs said they knew it was risky to put on a show without a target audience, but that they were very pleased with the audience response.

"Anybody who comes for such an untraditional show is going to like surprises, and that's what the show is all about: surprises," Novak said.

Artistically, most of the ideas in the show came directly from the BJs. Though the talent said they enjoyed an informal working atmosphere, the BJs were definitely in charge.

"B.J. and B.J. pretty much ran the show. We just got to be their minions," the 'lovely' Megan said.

Novak and Averell said the production crew, which included veteran Hasty Pudding Theatricals producer Daniel A. Bress '01, was responsible for making the show look professional.

There was one disappointment. Though posters promoted the appearance of "Stephanie Tanner," from the popular 1980s sitcom "Full House," the actress who portrayed her, Jodie Sweetin, cancelled at the last minute, after her mother threatened to attend.

Judging by the laughs, though, most audience members did not seem to mind.

Each paid $5 to see the hour-and-a-half long show. The BJs said the money just about covered their budget.

Next year, they said they plan a much larger show--to be held in Sanders Theatre, with proceeds going to charity.

Asked if they would have ever done anything like this had their names not been BJ, Averell thought for a moment.

"No, it just wouldn't have happened," he said.

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