By EMMI VELEZ
CORAL GABLES- Donning a brightly colored t-shirt, hawaiian printed board shorts and sun bleached flip flops, University of Miami junior Tej Joshi makes his rounds through the School of Communication courtyard, warmly greeting everyone he sees with his signature smile and booming voice.
Joshi seems to be friends with every student in the school, spreading his contagious laughter to each person he talks to. He cracks a few jokes for his friends and before leaving reminds them, “not to miss the season opener of Off The Wire this Thursday night.”
Joshi is the Host and Executive Producer of Off The Wire, the student run late-night sketch comedy show that airs bi-weekly on the University of Miami’s cable channel, UMTV. In order to recreate the electric energy of popular late-night comedy shows, Off The Wire records in front of a live-studio audience made up of students, faculty and invited guests.
Off The Wire has been a staple in the School of Communication since 2002, but recently has been faltering to attract students to be a part of its audience. This is an issue Joshi noticed when he first became involved with the show his freshman year at the university.
“During my time in Off The Wire the quality of the show has gone up and down,” said Joshi. “When I first joined the show my freshman year, the show was really strong and we always had big audiences.”
But things started to change by the second semester of Joshi’s freshman year.
“During the end of my freshman year, and throughout my first semester sophomore year the show began to suffer from low student attendance,” said Joshi. “In fact, one time there were literally only two audience members at the show.”
When Joshi became an Executive Producer in the Fall of 2017, he lead a push to begin to build a better work environment for his crew. Joshi believes team chemistry, better quality sketches and crew confidence is what drives audiences into Studio C.
“The quality of our shows is directly linked to our audience turnout,” said Joshi. “Having big name guests brings people in, but also when we produce sketches we are proud of we do a better job promoting the episodes. We want our friends to come and see the work we’re proud of.”
Joshi and his team worked tirelessly to promote Off The Wire’s season opener through word of mouth and on social media. They even changed the show’s recording time from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. in hopes of attracting more students looking for free on-campus entertainment.
Off The Wire’s season premiere was filmed in front of a jam-packed studio audience. Students lined up in front of Studio C Thursday evening before doors opened, excitedly chatting about the show and audience freebies. Guests were given a coupon for a free pilates class and entered into a movie ticket raffle for attending the taping.
“This is my first time coming to Off The Wire,” said sophomore Joanna Pastoor standing in line with her friends before the show began. “It was promoted all over Facebook and my friends really wanted me to come. I’ve heard good things about the show so I figured tonight is the night I’d check it out.”
Off The Wire’s season opener had almost 50 people in attendance, a jump from its average audience of 30 students last semester. Joshi and his team hope to continue this momentum through the rest of the season and restore the show’s former glory.
“I want to build a better sketch show so that crew members will be proud of their work and more likely to invite their friends to watch the taping,” said Joshi. “I think with enough work we can build on this excitement and have huge audiences for the rest of the year.”
Off The Wire is filmed bi-weekly on Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. in Studio C.