Story by Sarah Sabatke

Haley Broughton makes an exaggerated expression toward the camera as she lays across a bench outside the Student Center, propping her head in one hand and bending one knee straight up.
Haley Broughton, president of the sketch comedy group Battlewhale, poses for a portrait outside the MU Student Center. Photo by Monique Woo

Members of MU Battlewhale maneuver around the stage during the end-of-semester show, making funny voices and playing off of each other’s characters. Although their lines are memorized, the members never quite know what will happen. Haley Broughton, president of the organization, has one main goal — to make the audience laugh.

Broughton is a senior convergence journalism major from Naperville, Illinois. In fall 2015, she joined MU Battlewhale, MU’s premiere sketch-comedy team, as a freshman. She had competed in speech and debate in high school and knew she wanted to get involved with comedy on campus. A resident adviser encouraged her to attend a Battlewhale meeting, and, after getting to know the close-knit group, she was hooked. This year, Broughton is the president of the organization.

“I have loved comedy … for as long as I can remember,” she says. “I’ve always loved making people laugh.”

MU has three comedy organizations: MU Improv, Comedy Wars and Battlewhale. Battlewhale is based on sketch comedy, meaning members write original scenes — similar to what would be seen on Saturday Night Live — before memorizing and performing them.

Broughton sits on a bench, knees propped up, making a funny face at the camera.
Haley Broughton is a journalism major and appreciates the way comedy can explore tough subjects. Photo by Monique Woo

Being a member of Battlewhale is a large time commitment, similar to a three–credit hour class, Broughton says.

“We have people who work 35 hours a week, they’re in 18 credit hours and they’re in Battlewhale,” she says. “And they still pump out these amazing sketches; they see it as a really good outlet for themselves.”

Members spend the first several months of the semester writing, reading and revising sketches.  Once sketches are selected for the end-of-semester show, they are rehearsed and memorized.

Typically, sketches last about five minutes and center around fictitious characters or “an exaggerated representation of someone who’s real,” according to Broughton. The sketches can be about any topic. As president, Broughton refrained from limiting members to a theme and instead let them write about whatever they were interested in. The group then worked to find common threads after the final sketches were selected.

The semester culminates in a performance of the group’s original material. The final show for the fall 2018 semester was titled “Bringing Moderately Attractive Back.”

To Broughton, the organization is more than an opportunity to spend time with friends. Battlewhale allows her to explore her ideas and find comfort in comedy.

“That’s why I really like comedy,” she says. “Maybe something seems so dark and gloomy, and then you compare it to something or put it in a different context or give it a funny voice, … and then it’s different.”

Broughton has been involved with a number of outlets on campus, including MUTV, MU Improv and Mizzou Women in Media. Battlewhale, though, is where she’s found a home.

“I found really great opportunities to grow as a leader,” Broughton says. “I found opportunities to express myself in a way that I didn’t feel was appropriate outside of that setting.”

Battlewhale has evolved over the years from a group of friends hanging out and making each other laugh to an established organization on campus. Battlewhale also connects with other groups on campus for events and performances. Most members perform, but some simply attend meetings because they like the culture of the group.

“Comedy is a different way of communicating your ideas and how you view the world,” Broughton says. “This makes me want to look through my sketches that I’ve written … and be like, ‘What do I think about things?’ ”

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