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Past, Present Members of Chocolate Cake City Reunite for 20th Anniversary Show

man wearing white apron dances on stage surrounded by others doing same move
Dan Perrault ’09 resurrects the “Supermarket Purgatory” sketch, with the help of a new generation. Photo/Daryl Paranada

Emerson College’s sketch comedy troupe Chocolate Cake City (CCC) brought together current students and alumni for its 20th anniversary show at Los Angeles’s historic Dynasty Typewriter at the Hayworth Theatre on November 12.

The two-hour-long show featured both new and old sketches, which were revamped to include older members in recent works and newer members in classic ones.

One of the main alum organizers, Dan Perrault ’09, talked about the show’s first sketch “Supermarket Purgatory,” which utilized the whole cast in reoccurring flash mob moments. It was always one of his favorites, but he could never find a fitting conclusion, until now. 

“I loved doing [the sketch], but it never had a great ending,” said Perrault, a TV writer and producer. “Now, here we are 15 years or so later, finally ending it in the way I feel is a better way to end it with part of the original cast, as well as some new ones.”

In addition to live sketches, one alum gave a standup performance, members participated in improv games, and a few memorable video sketches from the group’s YouTube channel were played throughout. The show opened with an intro video that ties all the members together into one large group, each person having a quippy clip of something they’re currently doing as a troupe member. It was fun for the group to brainstorm the fictional story that brought everyone together in the theater. 

Dave Child ’07, who joined CCC in 2003, was one of the performers in the anniversary show. The LA-based writer and performer heard about the reunion through word of mouth and knew that it was a no-brainer to be part of the show.

“There’s someone in the troupe who was born in 2004, which was when I was in the troupe, so it’s surreal,” Child said. “Everyone still has the same sense of humor. It’s evolved, it’s grown in a lot of different ways that’s impressive, but everyone still feels like they come from the same family, so it’s nice.”

Other featured videos in the show included a 13-year-old clip titled “Consonant Sorrow Trailer,” the 12-year-old “Constant Vigilance,” and this year’s hilarious “Knife Sketch.” Over the years, the troupe’s videos have garnered more than 2 million views on YouTube. 

several people wearing fake mustaches dance on stage
Something to do with mustaches. Photo/Daryl Paranada

Perrault’s time with the troupe happened to be in the early days of YouTube, allowing CCC to upload its sketch videos and foster some traction in the online community. The combination of comedy and the internet set him on a path of producing digital work. 

“I’m old enough that YouTube was very new when I was at Emerson, and a lot of the videos that we did we put on there got a small audience that grew over time,” Perrault said. “That inspired me to, after graduating, try to form other groups, put out a lot more videos to get my voice and name out there, and grow my career through digital content, which I don’t think I would’ve done if we didn’t put our work on YouTube in the first place.” 

CCC was founded in 2002 by Rob Asaro ’05, a New York–based comedian, actor, and writer. The troupe got its moniker from a nickname for Asaro’s little sister, who loved chocolate cake. Initially, there wasn’t an audition process in place to join the troupe, and the very first cast was composed of about 25 people. 

The troupe is the whole reason Perrault became enthusiastic about working in comedy, and he credits those who came before him for turning the group into a special one. But he nearly wasn’t in after auditioning—all because he didn’t realize he had an emerson.edu email address. 

“I’d met Pat De Nicola ’08, who was the current president at that time, at the downstairs convenience store of the Little Building. He said ‘Do you want to be in the troupe?’ I’m like ‘Yeah, I want to be in the troupe.’ He’s like, ‘Well, we’ve been emailing you for the past month,’” Perrault said. “Had I not seen him, I definitely would not have been in Chocolate Cake City, and I would not have a career in comedy. In terms of my personal style and writing, a lot of that was informed by the work that I did with this group of people.”

Perrault helped get the ball rolling on the anniversary show, contacting current CCC members about putting something together. One of the members he reached out to was Adam Russell ’23, who has been with the troupe since his first year, calling it his favorite part of college. A lot of work went in behind the scenes, from contacting LA theaters, to recruiting alumni, to figuring out travel logistics with current students, but the end result turned into a memorable experience.

“Chocolate Cake City is a group of people that I love, and they’re all incredibly talented, funny, kind, caring, and every good adjective you can think of,” Russell said. “It was such an amazing experience to put together and, honestly, this was one of those moments of ‘This is why we go to Emerson’ because we get to do really cool sh*t like this.” 

The weekend was jam-packed for the performers, particularly the nine current students who flew out from Boston. It allowed for a bonding experience among close friends, full of laughs and an unforgettable anniversary performance. 

Despite being physically apart for so long, members instantly refamiliarized themselves with each other during rehearsal, which only spanned two days—four hours on Friday night, a Saturday afternoon tech, and another two hours before the show. Working with fellow alumni like Child and De Nicola felt very natural for Perrault, who said reconnecting with old friends was one of the great opportunities of the show. 

woman in santa suit looks confused as others, some in holiday attire, look on
Gracie Hirsch ’23 plays a stoned Santa for a sketch. Photo/Daryl Paranada

“In a lot of ways, it feels like no time has passed between now and when we originally did this,” Perrault said. “We fell back into old rhythms. We’re talking about lighting changes, blocking, giving each other notes; it’s pretty much like we’re back in the Cabaret of the Little Building from back in the day.”

Gracie Hirsch ’23 performed as a stoned Santa in one of the show’s sketches. She said that CCC has provided an amazing creative outlet, one that has grown a lot over the past 20 years. 

“I just get to write sketches with my friends, the thing I love to do the most with the people I love the most, so that is awesome,” said Hirsch, an aspiring comedian and TV writer. “It’s so cool to see how much the troupe has evolved over the years in terms of what it looked like then, what it looks like now—the style, tone, what has changed, and what has stayed the same.” 

The troupe has developed fun traditions over the years, which it found ways to include for the 20th anniversary celebration. Shows have always incorporated dancing and the troupe consistently serves free chocolate cake. For the anniversary show, two chocolate cakes were on display in the theatre’s lobby.

Tam Silverman ’26 is one of the youngest members in the troupe. They performed in a sketch where people repeat the word “mustache” in different ways and deliveries. The experience was beneficial for Silverman, who found it great to interact with and learn from working professionals. 

“It’s been really incredible seeing generations of comedy still have a through line and also develop in a way that’s unique and interesting,” Silverman said. “I’m just starting out in college, and seeing people who are making their way in the artistic world gives me a lot of hope about my future.”

members of CCC pose in front of theater marquee
Past and present members of Chocolate Cake City pose in front of the Hayworth Theatre on November 12. Photo/Laura Daroca
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