Weekly Feature

2016-05-26 / Lifestyles

Improv, stand-up, producing: Nora Hurley does it ALL

by LUCY LOPEZ Reporter

Nora Hurley performs stand-up at Milkie’s open mic night. 
Photo by Kristy Rock Nora Hurley performs stand-up at Milkie’s open mic night. Photo by Kristy Rock Sixty seconds, 30 seconds, 10, five, then one. Performing the same scene in decreasing time intervals could seem daunting for those unfamiliar with improv, but for

Nora Hurley and her current improvisational team, this was a walk in the park.

From being a girl moving out of her apartment and fighting with her boyfriend about her comic books and their goldfish, transitioning to a screaming, anxiety-driven toddler in a game of “stand, sit or lie,” Hurley’s comedic range commanded the stage at Sugar City on Niagara


And this was only a practice.

They were preparing for Saturday’s event called “The Good Show,” co-produced by Hurley and her boyfriend, Jon Schuta. Schuta approached her with the idea earlier this year.

It’s a monthly show at Sugar City on Niagara Street, giving local comics a chance to showcase their talents.

“We wanted to make our own space. If there’s not something there, make an opportunity for it,” Hurley said.

She was excited to incorporate improv into the show, thinking it would be a great way to bring in an audience who wouldn’t normally get a chance to see improv.

Hurley, 24, who is originally from Rochester, graduated from SUNY Buffalo State in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in both television film arts and public communication.

Associate Professor Meg Knowles commented on Hurley’s time at Buffalo State.

“Nora was a student in my screenwriting course at Buffalo State and stood out as a talented comedy writer for both commercial and narrative scripts,” Knowles said. “She has great comic timing and a creative mind. I expect to see great things from her.”

Hurley was a part of “Friday Night Live” during her time here. FNL is a weekly student-run improv show hosted by Casting Hall Productions. It is one of the largest United Student Government-sponsored groups on campus.

With lines of people waiting to audition wrapping throughout the halls of Buffalo State’s Donald Savage building, Hurley recalls her experience, saying, “I felt like I was in the Hunger Games.”

With friends doing improv at other colleges around her, Hurley thought this was something she could do too.

“I just felt like this is a good self-help thing to do for just the sake of doing it because it’s scary.”

She had no idea she would actually get into FNL and that her career would take off from there.

“There were several phases. The first thing they said to me was ‘you have until you walk to the door and come back to be a different person, like be a character,’” Hurley said. “I had no characters because I wasn’t an improviser, but at the time, as a joke, my boyfriend and I would talk to each other in Russian accents. So I came in as a flirtatious Russian girl.”

Her confidence skyrocketed. First afraid of some of the improv games and over-thinking, to then taking improv classes in New York City, FNL helped her find herself both personally and professionally.

Her ticket to New York started with a call from Comedy Central. It was the only internship she applied for in the city, and when she got it, she was ecstatic.

Hurley’s dream is to write for a comedy show, and she got one step closer. Her time there was spent creating social media content: hashtags, memes and Easter eggs for shows such as “Workaholics” and “Inside Amy Schumer.”

During her time in New York, Hurley studied improv at Upright Citizen’s Brigade. A lot of the “Saturday Night Live” cast, such as Amy Poehler, come from Upright Citizen’s Brigade.

“I came back to FNL in my last year stronger than ever,” Hurley said.

Being at Comedy Central made her realize that some of the best writers were also stand-up comedians. Having performance experience, she took the plunge and started doing open-mic nights around Buffalo. Her first show was two years ago.

Along with co-producing “The Good Show,” Hurley also produces a quarterly show called “100 Proof Comedy” at Black Button Distilling in Rochester.

The audience exceeded the capacity of the venue during the last show. A date for the next “100 Proof Comedy” show is currently in the works for June or July.

Hurley is currently making her way into the open-mic scene to continue her progress with stand-up. Her focus will be on practicing and performing.

You just might see her upstairs at Uncle Jerry’s Comedy Attic at Goodbar on a Thursday night.

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