The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Class clowns

Taking a chance on improv comedy

Most people think they are funny, even me, the quiet kid who sits in the back of the class. Yet I always wondered what it would take for me to “be funny” on stage, in front of a group of strangers; to open myself up to them, perform, and throw myself out there to the mercy of public opinion.

I decided to face my fear and attend a practice of the SJU Improv Club, Saint Joseph’s University’s own improv comedy group. The team’s president, Jimmy Wyatt, ’17, granted me access to the final practice before their show, Laugh Your Heart Out, which, in combination with Alpha Phi, raised money for heart disease.

I walked over to Sunroom II in Campion Student Center on that rainy Thursday night. I nervously waited in the lobby outside of the practice before being warmly greeted by Wyatt.

When I walked in, the first thing I noticed was the energy of a room of people who were polar opposites of me. Everyone seemed comfortable, outgoing, loud, and most importantly, funny. It was like going to a dinner at your friend’s house and meeting his insanely close family.

Club president Grace Kocubinski, ’17, said the closeness of the team is what helps them succeed.

“We are hoping to build with the freshmen we brought on,” Kocubinski said. “[It’s] this really great community where you know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and you use that advantage in a scene to make it stronger and better.”

One of my first thoughts was how one practices for an improv comedy show. Isn’t it all supposed to be improvised?

“We practice the games [that are performed each show] so we know the format of the show and the format of each game that we play,” Wyatt explained. “But the actual scene that is going on in front of the audience has never been done before.”

Like any sports practice, the improv team began practice with warm ups. These drills are fast-paced and focus on working each member’s attention to detail and memory. They involve a lot of phrase memorization and pronunciation.

I barely kept up.

I watched as four of the team members got ready to perform a game called “Director,” where three members act out a scene. One person plays the director and asks the group to make changes such as adding more slapstick or more drama. I was immediately impressed with the acting abilities of the improvisers and how quickly they can change major parts of the scene without even thinking about it.

Then, as Wyatt had promised me earlier, it was my turn to take part in one of the games. My heart was racing as I strode out in front of the improv team. I had just met some of these people, others I still hadn’t met, and now I was about to perform in front of them. I was sweating and my stomach was in knots as I listened to the improvisers give us the scenario of a first date at a carnival.

Once I heard “action,” I blocked everything out but Wyatt. I knew if I was going to succeed at all I needed him to lead the scene. He talked about how it was only our first date, but he really loved my sister. My mind raced, searching for something absurd and I said the first thing that came to my mind: I told him my sister was actually my brother. I told him the bald head confuses most people.

I heard the rest of the team laugh. The scene went off without a hitch, and I returned to my seat receiving some props from the team members.

In the next game, I was a prop to be used by the other actors. When one actor said something along the lines of “Here are some horses,” I immediately got onto the floor and pretended to be a horse. I felt a little ridiculous but was I committed to the scene, bucking and jumping around on my hands and knees.

Next I played a very convincing plank of wood as I lay motionless on the floor. According to the improviser next to me, I was a natural.

The rest of the practice was filled with games that would be performed in the next night’s show: A game show and the odd contestants playing on it, and a cop proposing to another cop’s robot knees.

As the practice ended, I asked Wyatt what he would say to a kid like me who was quiet and was thinking about trying improv. He told me he was like me when he first got to college but improv club changed that.

“The improv team did some cool things for me.” Wyatt said. “It helped me know to trust myself; it helped me know that I’m funny; it helped me know that people care what I have to say, and like I said, it changed my life and let me know I have a passion in making people laugh.”

In all honesty , I could never have imagined stepping in front of a group of strangers and attempting to try comedy—but I am glad I did.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Hawk News

Your donation will support the student journalists of St. Joseph's University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hawk News

Comments (0)

All The Hawk News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *