MU Improv sparks smiles through passion for laughter

The comedy group looks forward to creating more unique, hilarious characters each week.

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No script, no backstory, nothing but a single word.

The possibilities are endless for MU Improv, a long-form improvisational comedy group. With weekly performances every Tuesday at 9 p.m. in The Shack, MU Improv hopes to spur creativity and laughter from its performances. According to social chair Quinn Godding, MU Improv’s welcoming environment helped him adjust to college life and meet new people.

“It’s just kind of a nice, social atmosphere,” Godding said. “Like we kind of ... hang out every Thursday after practice and we’ll often get together outside of improv and everything. It’s a very welcoming and friendly group, so I think it was very helpful when I was a freshman because when I was a freshman, I was kind of like nervous about college and stuff. So it was kind of nice to have a group that was kind of very open and wanted people to come out and hang out with them.”

In preparation for shows, MU Improv has open practices every Thursday night at 7 p.m., where members play improvisational games to learn new skills. For freshman member Thomas DeLong, practices are his favorite part of the organization, always leaving him in an optimistic mood.

“I just really like going to practices,” DeLong said. “They’re a lot of fun. I always feel refreshed afterwards. It’s just nice. When I’m doing improv, I laugh a lot and that’s a nice thing to have in my week.”

Since the organization’s creation only a few years prior, MU Improv has seen incredible growth, according to President Connor Hills. He is excited to see a consistent audience at each show, something not always present in the past. In addition, the organization has grown to roughly 30 consistent members per meeting, which Hills said is unique compared to other colleges.

“Most other schools have completely audition-based teams, ... like 10 people total, and so the fact that we have enough resources and ability to host numerous teams and provide like ... almost an entire troupe is crazy for a college to be able to do,” Hills said.

For Hills, the most difficult part of comedy improv is entertaining the audience in a way that flows naturally. Hills believes trying to force humorous moments in turn ruins any chance the performer has of being funny.

“It’s kind of like the team sport of comedy,” Hills said. “So, it’s all about supporting your scene partners and building a relationship with them on stage and pulling real-life experiences and making light of that because that’s way more funny than if you just stand on stage and start trying to come up with jokes.”

In contrast with Hills, DeLong finds staying in character the most challenging part of comedy improv. Always enjoying a long laugh, DeLong works hard to remember that laughter in performance is only entertaining in moderation.

“I definitely sometimes struggle with breaking in scenes,” DeLong said. “I crack up occasionally. I think I’ve gotten it to a point where it’s not like, you know, like sometimes you watch SNL and they’re laughing in every scene and it’s a little too much. Occasionally I think it’s alright because sometimes people like that, if you’re laughing. But that’s definitely something that I’ve had trouble with.”

Godding has learned many skills from MU Improv that can be utilized both on and off the stage. According to Godding, improvisation is one of the main factors that contributed to his personal growth, both in minute ways like his improvement in public speaking and in big-picture ways like his experience attending a university.

“I feel like I’ve grown a lot more, like it’s helped my growth in general because [improv] helped me be more comfortable in college and everything and I felt like I had more of a support system up here,” Godding said. “And so, it kind of just helped with the whole college experience I think.”

Of the large variety of characters he’s played, Hills’ favorite moment with MU Improv came in April 2017 when he performed with MU Improv’s travel group for CoMotion, an annual event where other university improvisational teams come to MU. Not only was the set entertaining, but Hills loved acting for all of his friends and family.

“I was like this anthropomorphic dog character, kind of like a Scooby-Doo almost, but it was ... a little more vulgar,” Hills said. “It was just really fun; it’s a really fun set. So just being able to perform in front of a big crowd, like that is one of my favorite memories because I love performing.”

Having never done improvisation before college, Hills encourages anyone to try MU Improv regardless of past experience or current major. MU Improv practices are open to everyone; only performance teams are audition based.

“It’s such a big part of what my college experience has been so far,” Hills said. “It’s how I’ve made my best friends in school and it brings together so many people from different backgrounds because it’s like, we don’t even really have any theater majors. It really is just something that anyone can try or go to and you don’t have to take it seriously or want to pursue comedy at all, which is just super awesome.”

Edited by Brooke Collier | bcollier@themaneater.com

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