In the narrow hallways of Russ Hall, three Montclair State University sophomores set up and prepare to shoot a video. Utilizing just a camera, a microphone and their three vastly creative and ambitious minds, the trio plans to shoot something that will make people laugh.
Combining what they find funny and throwing their own personalities into the mix, the crew has planned this shoot out accordingly to match exactly how they thought about it in their heads, no changes. “Three college guys run into their ex-girlfriends, who are seemingly their female counterparts… let the banter begin.” The common goal for the group? Produce comedy that is real and true to young adults.
Playing exaggerated versions of themselves, James Lynch, Patrick Farley and Sean Fitzmaurice are best friends. Additionally, they are undergraduates, which has also been operating as their official comedy group insignia.
Since the start of the fall 2019 semester, they’ve been steamrolling over the entire Montclair State campus, garnering over 1,000 followers on Instagram by mid-November, a feat they all are astonished by.
“It’s honestly a dream the way this has be unfolding,” said Farley. “We have random people come up to us all the time and tell us how much they loved the most recent video. In a matter of days, it built up to this whole thing.”
One could argue this team was even an overnight success. Initially, they began by putting a handful of videos on their YouTube channel only last year. Due to the endless laughs coming from their audience, videos started to be released more regularly, eventually shifting to Instagram as their main outlet.
Lynch and Fitzmaurice first met back in their sophomore year at Sparta High School together. The pair were nominated for best “bromance,” as well as both being nominated for class clown individually.
Lynch and Farley met at freshmen orientation.
“We connected immediately, although I did think he was a bit funny looking at first,” said Lynch of Farley.
Farley was also sort of a class clown in his early days. His senior project consisted of a 15-minute highlight reel of him poking fun at his teachers. Once these three friends entered the fall 2019 semester as sophomores, they thought to themselves, “Hey, why don’t we pick up a camera and get working on some content?” Resulting in exactly that.
While Lynch and Farley come up with the majority of the ideas and put together the videos, Fitzmaurice has a permanent role in acting, as he comes up with various characters for himself and his partners.
“I refer to their humor as ‘bro humor’ when talking about it because it’s very relatable to college students,” said Dillon Hoffman, President of the Video Production Club. “It’s just guys hanging out doing funny things, and that’s what everybody does with their friends.”
Much of their comedy works because they’re bold enough to go the extra mile. From stepping into a shower fully clothed, to using another’s finger as one’s own toothbrush and spitting in each other’s face, the three are more than comfortable with one another.
“I think a lot of their success comes from seeing what works and what doesn’t work, and then adjusting to that very quickly,” said Hoffman. “Instagram was just a side thing for them at first, but they realized their stuff works better in short form because of the accessibility.”
They have had some help from their friends over at the Montclair Improv League of Friends (MILF), a larger improv group which the trio are all members of. There, they can express themselves in front of live audiences while also gaining support from a myriad of comedic minds around them.
The Undergrads are analogous to Andy Samberg’s The Lonely Island Crew, and Montclair Improv would be the famous Second City Comedy Club of Chicago, where many young comedians like Tina Fey, Key and Peele and John Candy all jump-started their careers in comedy.
“It’s a crazy thought for me because of the amount of people who follow a comedy page that I’m a part of,” said Fitzmaurice. “They don’t have to follow us, but they do because they actually want to. I see names from high school who follow the page, but they aren’t even following me.”
They have multiple goals for the page. Fitzmaurice hopes to one day be verified on Instagram, while Lynch wants to get bigger and expand their creative capabilities.
“It has helped me in life. I don’t care what anyone thinks of me because of this and my characters. I’ll do anything for the role, and you need that in life,” said Lynch.
“It’s not work if you love what you do,” said Farley. “It’s not ‘Oh man I have to do this.’ It’s ‘Wow I really get to do this,’ and I’m grateful I’ve found that at such a young age.”
The Undergrads have been all over the place. Right now, it’s just Montclair, but in time, it will be greater than that. And to answer the obvious question that everyone is secretly asking: yes, they will still call themselves “The Undergrads” after college.