Throughout the semester, Subject to Change (STC), the university’s improvisational comedy troupe, has been hosting 11pm shows in the Stern Quad on the first Wednesday of every month. Due to the cold temperatures, this final December quad show was held in Jepson 118 in order to accommodate the crowd, though this did remove the usual “roundabout” staging. I was surprised at the turnout, considering the stress of finals week and the cold temperatures, though it seemed like many in attendance were there for a study break. Generally, the audience for their shows is comprised of students from many different clubs and friend groups, as was the case for this show.
Of course, with any improv comedy, audience participation is a large part of the performance. We made a few suggestions for emotions and situations to be used throughout the show, and they did take one of our suggestions: “itchy”. STC’s performances usually include various games with a few of the group’s members. One such game included two comedians in a scene, though the performance area was split up into “emotional zones” of “jealous”, “agitated”, “itchy”, and “elated”. As the scene progressed, some of the lines stated throughout the scene elicited an uproar of laughter from the audience, which at this point in the show had almost filled the room. While most of the jokes throughout the show elicited some giggles from the audience, much of the physical comedy drew laughs from the crowd, as many of the groups’ members are known for their physical comedy.
One game consisted of a talk-show style panel on the topic of shoelaces, though the panelists’ arms were actually those of another comedians, as the panelists tucked their arms behind their backs. Of course, this created a great opportunity for more physical comedy, with one set of arms even managing to put Chapstick on her panelist. However, as the scene began to drag on, some of the comedians who were not immediately involved in the scene entered the audience in order to pose questions of the panelists. Their creative questions effectively reignited the scene, allowing the panelists to finish out the game strong.
Generally, STC organizes their audience participation into suggestion cards before the show begins. As each scene develops naturally under the creativity of each of the comedians, the audience’s response guides where the comedians go next. Some comedians will even break the fourth wall and appeal directly to the audience if they feel their joke unjustly flopped, or to relay their shock in the audience’s twisted sense of humor. Even though this was the last show of the semester in a different setting than usual, audience support and participation, through both direct suggestions and laughter, brought the energy that finals week at UR was missing.