Being funny is serious business for Casual Thursday

by Frances Cha | 1/12/04 6:00am

This is the first in a series of two articles examining the preparation that goes into making improv comedy.

Practice makes perfect and improv comedy is no exception. But how exactly does one "practice" improv? This week, The Dartmouth took a peek at the two improv comedy groups on campus to see how it's done.

Although both groups specialize in both long and short forms of improv, this week's Casual Thursday rehearsal was mainly devoted to short form. Short form entails a faster pace and shorter structure while long form is devoted to much longer scenes with deeper character development and thus a far more difficult closure.

Wednesday, 7 p.m., Dartmouth Hall " Casual Thursday

Once members trickled into the auditorium in the basement of Dartmouth Hall, Casual Thursday rehearsal kicked off with its weekly announcements. President Chris Plehal '04, who founded the group three years ago, took the stage and outlined dates for upcoming shows. The members munched on Toblerone that one member had brought back from her off-term in Denmark as they bounced ideas back and forth as to which times would be best for everybody.

Once "business" was over, short warm-up games commenced. The first involved everyone running around madly with designated "enemies" and "shields." Aside from this fact, this reporter remained utterly confused as to what was going on.

Plehal had brought a number of new games to rehearsal, and he proceeded to explain how they were to be played as the rest of the group listened and asked questions. The first of these was "Motivational Training Ground," which Plehal joked was supposed to be particularly fitting for rehearsal. Once Plehal had rattled off instructions, three members immediately went up on stage and slipped into character.

With one hysterical scene after another, it was quite amazing how each one gained closure. Although some were a little more forced than others, one in particular came perfectly together, with the third player acting as the first player's sister whom the second player had a crush on. At the end of the scene Plehal said to the group "If you have a goal in mind, make sure to get to it," noting the particularly successful finish, and also added that "scenes don't screw around very much if they have a goal in mind."

Next up was "Baby Dinosaur Interview Hour", which is a favorite of member Becky Groves '06. It involves two people sitting behind two others and linking their arms through so that the people behind act as the arms of the people in front. The gestures and the conversation that ensued were nothing short of side-splitting. Groves said this game was her favorite " because it's absolutely ridiculous, but also very gimmicky."

Concerning Casual Thursday rehearsals in general, Groves said that, as bizarre as it sounds, she finds rehearsal essential to improv. "Rehearsals help me learn to think quickly and react in a variety of ways to whatever situation may present itself," said Groves.

Cole Entress '06 also agreed on the impact of rehearsals on performance: "We screw around a lot at practice, but almost every practice someone will say something about a game or technique or something, and it's like the little things in class readings you later realize you should have highlighted."