What do William Shakespeare and improvisational comedy have in common? While Willy Nilly probably didn’t partake in many improv scenes as an accomplished playwright, he may very well have shared his spotlight with the beginnings of the comedy form. Modern improv is attributed to the ancestor Commedia Dell'Arte, a group of travelling troupes who toured Europe from the 1500’s for about 200 years. No doubt, many of Shakespeare’s more classic lines, such as “Villian, I have done thy mother” [Titus Andronicus, Act 4, Scene 2] and “…eat my leek” [Henry V, Act 5, Scene 1] would be repeated to the audience from makeshift stages. The result would be eruptions in laughter from a fishmonger named Geffrey, or two. The loss of something so wonderfully hilarious led to many (okay, just my completely misplaced and illogical) conspiracy theories that America was actually colonized to bring improv back into our lives.
It’s with great pleasure that I got to practice with (mostly) short form troupe Junk Science (I’m also happy that short form beyond the Family Friendly show is making a 2018 return to DCH with the Big Friday show).
When I asked them if they had heard people malign short form before – maybe it was just my own small anecdotal sample size? – they all did that slow, sage, thousand-yard-stare nod.
The mainstream success of Whose Line Is It Anyway? doesn’t automatically make short form some sort of inauthentic improv version of Bud Light. Not only do audiences like it, but if the haters would give it a chance as performers, they might find that GAMES ARE FUN, and play to a lot of improvisers’ strengths.
There have been troupes I have profiled where I knew more of the players going in than I did with Brownie Troupe #3025 (If you don’t get the “3025” reference, Venmo me $5 and I’ll explain it to you), but in sitting down to watch them, I felt an immediate air of comfort and familiarity…
Some troupes make me want to be a better improviser.
Some troupes make me want to see a thousand years of their shows.
The Gentlemen make me want to make want to make ill-advised tattoo-related bets, snort Himalayan salt, and wake up in the jail of a country whose name I can’t pronounce.
Don’t get me wrong, The Gentlemen also make me want to be a better improviser and see a thousand years of their shows, but...here’s how their coach, Scriven Bernard, puts it.
You know who kicks butt? Night Interns! Do you know specifically which two Night Interns kick butt? Michelle Domb and Jami Nesbitt! Every week our kick butt House Managers nominate Night Interns who kick butt. These kick butt interns net themselves kick butt rewards, like a DCH bar tab, comp tickets, AND A FEATURE ON THE BLOG. Hey, it’s Raye Maddox checking in, and I’m here to interview last week’s Intern of the Week, Michelle Domb, and this week’s Intern of the Week, Jami Nesbit!
I’ve been watching and covering improv troupes for many a long day, but AH, OK, is the first one I’ve known to use a morning show as their angle (a show called Good Morning Tonight), and that’s awesome. I also knew going in that the duo of AH, OK, Adam Fullerton and Heather McKinney are also awesome having covered them as part of Watermelon.
Speaking of awesome, I got Enyclopedia Moronica on the virtual horn to answer AH, OK’s questions. They also have a one-of-a-kind to them format, which you might recall from my piece on them. It was one of the most enjoyable practices I’ve crashed so far.
Here’s what they had to say.
AH, OK: How did you settle on your format? Did you try different ones first?