Wednesday, August 21

Lessons in Laughter: Comedians showcase improv at Winter Welcome Comedy Show

Third-year theater students Cory Peter Lane, Hunter Saling and Jeremy Elder (left to right), who perform in the comedy group Business Casual, showcase their signature pose. The group got its name when they first performed together in dress shirts and ties after going to the show following a networking event on campus. (Hannah Burnett/Assistant Photo editor)

Third-year theater students Cory Peter Lane, Hunter Saling and Jeremy Elder (left to right), who perform in the comedy group Business Casual, showcase their signature pose. The group got its name when they first performed together in dress shirts and ties after going to the show following a networking event on campus. (Hannah Burnett/Assistant Photo editor)

Student comics at the Winter Welcome Comedy Show joked about New Years’ resolutions, college and self-identity.

“Everything I want to do this year makes me an objectively worse person,” said Pippa Spindel, a second-year cognitive science student who performed during the show.

Shenanigans Comedy Club hosted the quarterly show in the Humanities Building on Friday night. Shenanigans began hosting the shows the first week of each quarter to perform alongside different comedy groups on campus around five years ago, said Salma Zaky, the vice president of the club and a third-year English student.

The performances featured four improv teams and eight stand-up comedians, many of whom perform at The Improv Space in Westwood each month. Each group meets and practices separately, but they all came together in one lecture hall to kick off a quarter of comedy.

Business Casual

Business Casual, a self-made group of three students, hosted the evening. After leaving a networking event on campus one night, third-year theater students Hunter Saling, Cory Peter Lane and Jeremy Elder made their way to an open-mic show at The Improv Space. They were wearing dress shirts and ties, so they signed up to perform under the name Business Casual to justify their outfits. The name stuck.

The group has traveled around California and even to New York to perform improv. Though the group does not have a set performance schedule, they sporadically perform at The Improv Space, Saling said. The Winter Welcome was the first show this school year for the trio because Lane had been abroad for six months in Ireland.

Lane said the chemistry between the three teammates and friends makes the group different from other teams on campus.

“We practice but we hang out so much more,” he said. “That’s important for the way we perform because we spend a lot of time together whereas some teams only see each other once per week.”

Shenanigans’ stand-up

Shenanigans’ stand-up comedy members meet each Friday at 6 p.m. The structure of the meetings tends to mirror that of an open-mic club, Zaky said, because anyone at the meetings can go up and tell jokes.

The loosely structured, weekly meetings help members learn to use their individual comedic skills, she said. Because stand-up differs from the group aspects of improv, practices are less focused on team bonding and more on building comfort in performing.

“The only way to get better is by doing it,” said Zaky. “Stand-up is so independent – you have to just go up and talk

Stand-up comedians from Shenanigans Comedy Club perform every other Tuesday night at The Improv Space. The club also hosts BruinFest every quarter, at which a famous comedian headlines for an hour and some members give three-to-five minute sets afterward.

Shower for Effect

Shower for Effect, composed of Shenanigans members, formed during the 2015-2016 school year and performs at The Improv Space every other week on an alternating schedule with Shenanigans stand-ups. Brandon Wolfson, a second-year mathematics of computation student and the captain of the team, said the team performs long-form improv, which is plot-based and less structured than its short-form counterpart. Instead of playing short games, the group creates scenes without many rules restraining them.

The specific type of long-form done by Shower for Effect is known as a montage, a collection of scenes that are semiconnected by ideas based off of suggestions from the audience and ideas introduced in each of the preceding scenes. The team practices twice per week when they refine the technique of saying, “yes, and …” which is an improvisation technique that involves agreeing with and contributing ideas to scenes through dialogue, Wolfson said.


Sidekicks, another improv team under Shenanigans, also follows a long-form style of improv. However, their performances focus on telling a story, said team captain Emma Lauterbach.

“Sidekicks is very character-based, grounded and into character relationships,” said the second-year environmental science student. “Some other teams can be more game focused and may play for laughs a bit more, but that’s not necessarily our goal.”

Sidekicks performs every other Tuesday night at The Improv Space alongside Shower for Effect. The team also holds practices twice a week, consisting of warm-up exercises and then practicing whichever type of long-form performance they are working on for the week. They used a monologue format in their performance, with three scenes based off a player’s monologue built around a suggested term from the audience.

Rapid Fire Improv

Rapid Fire Improv closed Friday’s show with short-form improv. Short-form consists of multiple games that have specific rules and outlines for play, but leaves the content up to the players.

The team played three games based off of audience suggestions. “Cut to” requires a word from the audience to kick off the scene. Whenever a player wants a backstory for a character or a change in time or place, they say “cut to …” and describe a temporal or locational shift in the plot, and a new scene forms accordingly. In “blind stage directions,” audience suggestions are written down and scattered onto the floor. Periodically throughout the scene, players pick the slips of paper off the floor and have to do as the suggestions say.

Marie Osterman, a third-year theater student, said the team usually works on both short- and long-form improv, often performing every other weekend at The Improv Space. The group focuses on a specific idea or form each quarter, such as a musical, and hones it throughout practices, she said.

“(The Winter Welcome Comedy Show is) a great opportunity for people who don’t see improv or don’t know about the teams on campus to learn about them,” Osterman saidCQ Interview” class=”inline-comment collapsed”>.

Lessons in laughter

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Countryman is the 2018-2019 Music | Arts editor. He was previously an A&E reporter. He is a second-year communication student.

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