Behind the Scenes: Sex-E

Smile & Nod is a comedy team at Cal Poly that performs improv shows on Saturday nights. The team has been performing these shows at Cal Poly since 1998, and it uses short form and long form
styles, which are commonly used in Whose Line is it Anyway and by comedians like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.

The team performs every Saturday night for the first five to seven weeks of every quarter in Phillips Hall, but most students are first exposed to Smile & Nod during Week of Welcome (WOW). Despite being a comedy team at Cal Poly, these students also put on a show called Expect Respect, a show that is designed to teach new students about the importance of respect and consensual behavior in all relationships.

News organizations such as Mustang News and the SLO Tribune have already written stories about Smile & Nod and its various performances over the years, but our story begins with the Expect Respect presentation. Since sexual assault has become a serious problem at colleges across the United States, presentations like Expect Respect are critical because they show students how to get consent and how to identify potential situations of sexual assault. It is this that has inspired some Smile & Nod students to turn this program into a business model to give the Expect Respect presentation at colleges other than Cal Poly.

We had an interesting challenge to write a story that both effectively informed students about the business idea and reminded them about Smile & Nod’s presence at Cal Poly.  

“(I would want to learn about) the outline of what the business is relating students. I am interested in how it intends to measure its success,” said Charmaine Farber, Assistant Graphic Communications Professor.

While other news outlets have covered Smile & Nod in the past, we still felt it was important to remind our viewers about the team so they can understand how the students came up with the business model. The next step in this story was to describe the actual business model and how the students planned to execute it. Kelly Jacobs took the assignment of writing the story, and she learned that the members of Smile & Nod work diligently to create these presentations.

“The most interesting thing I learned was the background on how the shows are created. I don’t know much about writing comedy skits so it was interesting to learn about that process and how the educational aspects are incorporated,” said Jacobs.

In contrast to the written story, the goal of the audio/visual component of this story was to capture the emotions from the Smile & Nod performances. Since this story focuses on the Expect Respect presentation, we felt the best way to show that was to record Smile & Nod members talking about the presentation and capture B-roll of the members reenacting the presentation. Iliana Salas was responsible for the audio/video component, and she learned about how sexual assault education is being presented in new ways.

“The most interesting thing I learned from the story was how sexual assault education is being shifted into new, non traditional ways because people are realizing that old methods are ineffective,” said Salas.

This story was an interesting experience for us because we learned about how the Smile & Nod students created the Expect Respect presentation, and how they intend to make it into a business.