Updated: Mar 1, 2021
You might remember Jacob Kaplan as Rob Goldberg from the 123th Varsity Show. He remembers that show, almost three years later, reclining on the top floor of East Campus. And despite the controlling nature of Goldberg’s character in A Tale of Two Colleges, had Jacob known what he knows after co-writing the 125th Varsity Show, he admits he probably would have learned his lines faster.
The Varsity Show is a labor of love, and Jacob is like any loving parent. Being on the creative team means making sure that the production runs seamlessly, for both the actors and the audience, while revising and rewriting the script up until mid-April. The process invokes an appreciation for consistency, something Columbia often fails to provide for university-sanctioned humor. As someone who aspires to write comedy, if only “there was a dollar in it,” that’s something he knows he can’t count on from the audience, because it’s impossible to write a joke that will offend nobody 100% of the time. And while he believes in the power of comedy as an avenue to discuss complex issues, sometimes things have to be cut. This was the case with Barnard Public Safety, which at the time faced accusation of racism and misconduct. The scandal simply happened too close to the time the final script had to be finished.
This desire to engage in bigger issues translates transparently, yet fairly, into how he felt about the critiques of the show. Bwog, unusually, gave a lot of praise for the technical and performative parts of the show, while providing critiques of the vilification of non-public administrators and the message behind the show’s hand waving of political “arbitrary shit” in a racialized and polarized national environment. These critiques are directed at decisions about plot and character building, which were directly in the department of co-writers Jacob and Jake Arlow, BC ’19. And yet, while he understood those comments, and accepted some of the remarks, he was fiercely critical of the Columbia Daily Spectator’s review, which largely levied broader criticism over the show’s pacing, humor, and technical work seen during a dress rehearsal performance. The situation of the review, divorced from the larger audience that fills Roone Auditorium most nights, struck Jacob as unfair and impractical.
That being said, this year, he’s unlikely to take on such a huge role in the 126th. (Trust me, it was one of the first questions I asked.) After the 123rd, he stayed in the community, but he returned as the drink captain instead of acting. Something similar will probably happen this senior year. Besides, he has a lot of other commitments to think about, between Third Wheel Comedy, The Kingsmen, and interning at SNL. Being in so many performing arts groups, I asked him about the audition process and exclusivity therein. Here, that sense of practicality returned. Third Wheel Comedy received 80+ applications and could only accept 10% of applicants. However, the improv group hosts a comedy workshop open to the community. This year, they’ve seen a record number of return participants—of around 3–5 people. Pressed as to why, Jacob theorized it might be that people are busy and prioritize permanent commitments over temporal ones. Plus, improv is a vulnerable setting, and he confessed that he wouldn’t want to go to an audition by himself. That would be way too “nerve-racking.” Especially for Rob Goldberg himself.