Cristina Delgado walked into the Straus Clubhouse of UCLA with her hands in her black jacket. While the stage was being cleared in front of the judges’ seats, she fidgeted with her hair, nervous but excited.
Her Thursday audition for the Shenanigans Club Improv Team was the first-year sociology student’s latest attempt at finding her niche at UCLA. She and the four other comedy auditioners will be notified about the results by Wednesday.
Later, Delgado stood on the edge of a circle with her fellow improvisors, clapping along to another student’s Bee Gees impression. The students were playing “Hot Spot,” a game in which one person sings in the middle of the group until someone else jumps in with a different song.
Delgado was about to make her move. Waving her finger as she strutted forward, she began a bluesy performance of “Love Me Two Times” by The Doors. The sing-along that had echoed through the room now disappeared as the students looked down in confusion – they did not know the tune. Soon Delgado herself turned quiet, going from Jim Morrison to the awkward new kid struggling to fit in.
But just when the song seemed to fall apart, someone let out a nervous giggle, another started fake guitar sounds and the whole circle, back together, sang in unison “Love me two times baby, love me twice today.”
“There is always that kind of thought in the back of your mind where people are judging you,” Delgado said. “But at that specific instance I just went for it.”
Delgado had never done improv before. Having attended a visual and performing arts high school in Los Angeles, Delgado gained some acting experience from plays. Earlier in the quarter, she started as a tech assistant for Hooligan Theatre Company.
“Improv was something I never really did, but I saw other people in my classes (who did improv),” she said. “So I thought, ‘That’s cool,’ and I wanted to check it out.”
Delgado said getting into UCLA clubs has been more difficult than she was anticipating, but she has been steadfast in pursuing her interests.
She discovered Shenanigans after visiting their booth during the fall activities fair. Though she wanted to spend her first quarter focusing on school, she kept the winter audition in mind.
Team manager and fourth-year economics student Kiley Chang said students without experience are usually accepted to the team, but this time she can probably only add two to three new members.
Delgado thought everyone would be accepted. After she saw more experienced students gel into characters like snappy reddit bloggers or 18-year-old mamas’ boys, she said she became a little worried about her chances.
“I wouldn’t say it intimidated me, but I’d say it threw me off,” she said.
Her second audition performance was during “Go Scenes,” a game in which pairs created scenes based on random words like “predator” or “pinwheel.” The pairs had no time to rehearse and came up with their scenes on the fly.
Delgado was given “sabotage.” The scene began with a shouting match between her and her partner, which then turned into an argument about cheese and world’s fairs.
Later, she would call it a hot mess. But after less than two minutes, it was on to the next pair, and Delgado again moved on from a performance she said did not go smoothly.
“The best thing to remember is that it’s never over until you are walking out the door,” Shenanigans improv coach Ben Crutcher said. “The last thing that you do is usually what the judges will remember.”
The morning after, Delgado sat at Bruin Café, resting her head against her hand and smiling. “Love Street,” another song by The Doors played in the background. She started to consider the previous night’s events and how they might affect her future at UCLA.
She said even if she doesn’t earn a spot with Shenanigans, she wants to keep practicing improv, possibly with other comedy clubs on campus.
“The scariness was just what made it more fun – the not knowing,” Delgado said. “Which is weird ’cause usually not knowing is scary, but in this improv it was fun. The only moments when I would be afraid was right when I went into it, but then right after that it’s like ‘Okay, I’m okay.’”